Choice of Anaesthetic
We will discuss your choice of anaesthesia at the pre-operative assessment; the options are topical anaesthetic, local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia.
Topical anaesthetic involves the use of eye drops only and, in my practice, is the most popular mode of anaesthesia. The drops do not hurt when put in and they ‘numb’ the eye, which means the surgery is not painful. Patients recover extremely quickly with minimal chance of a red eye or significant discomfort afterwards. It is not suitable for a minority of patients eg those unable to keep still or whose eye anatomy is unusual.
Local anaesthesia involves an injection of anaesthetic around the eye. It is uncomfortable (though not typically painful), and minimizes movement of the eye. It tends to cause a red eye afterwards and can be more uncomfortable than topical anaesthetic after the surgery. However, neither of these side-effects are severe and are short-lived.
General anaesthesia is rarely required, but is appropriate for patients who are unable to lie still or who are very anxious.
The Operation Itself
The operation usually lasts about 15-20 minutes, during which time you must lie still and as flat as possible.
Essentially, surgery involves removing your cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear, artificial intraocular lens implant.
The technique used to remove the cataract is called ‘phacoemulsification’.
A 3mm incision is made on the side of the cornea, through which a tiny probe is inserted into the eye. This probe uses ultrasound to soften and break up the cloudy lens, which is then removed by suction. The replacement intraocular lens is folded, and inserted through the incision. It unfolds once in place inside the eye.
There are usually no stitches, and you should be able to return home an hour later.