Today, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States. The surgery is performed at either an ambulatory surgical center or a hospital operating room. It is an outpatient procedure, allowing the patient to return home that same day. Cataract surgery is performed on one eye at a time. If necessary, the second eye can be done within one to two weeks following the first eye.
When a cataract is removed, the surgeon implants an artificial lens in its place. Due to the technology available today, this lens can be somewhat customized for your eye to help you obtain the kind of vision you desire after surgery.
Here is what to expect when you arrive at the surgical center on the day of your cataract surgery:
1. You will pay any necessary surgical co-pays, determined by your medical insurance, to the surgical center front desk staff.
2. You will be brought back by a nurse, who will review your medical history and other paperwork.
3. You will go to a pre-operative area where your vitals will be checked, an IV will be started, and you will be given dilation eye drops.
4. You will visit with your surgeon and the anesthesiologist before you are taken out of the pre-operative area.
5. In the surgical suite, you will be given pain and relaxing medication through your IV. For most patients, “twilight anesthesia” is used where you are sedated to a comfortable point, but are still awake and aware. Some patients prefer to be put completely to sleep, so they are placed under general anesthesia.
6. The nurse will prepare your surgical eye with an antiseptic solution. A sterile drape will be placed to provide a sterile operative field for the surgeon to work in. An eyelid speculum will be placed to keep your eye open throughout the surgery without requiring any effort on your part.
7. A microscope that emits a bright light will be used by your surgeon during the surgery. Due to the bright light, you will not see anything the surgeon is doing or any instruments he is using.
8. Your surgeon will create micro incisions in the cornea and use a phacoemulsifier (ultrasound) to break up the cataract into small pieces before removing it.
9. Once the cataract is removed, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) will be inserted into the eye.
10. A protective shield will be placed over your eye at the end of surgery to prevent accidental rubbing or bumping.
11. You will be transferred to a recovery area where your vitals will be checked and you will be given something small to eat and drink.
Your entire surgery day experience should last approximately 2 hours