Not many people enjoy lying on an operating table. If you’re particularly sensitive around your eyes, the thought of undergoing cataract surgery may be especially unappealing. However, if your eye surgeon has recommended cataract surgery at this point in time, it’s most likely because your cataracts have reached a point that can only be treated by removing them entirely.
So, how long is the cataract surgery procedure and also importantly, how long is cataract surgery recovery? Keep reading to find out.
How Long is the Cataract Surgery Procedure?
Your eye surgeon will probably tell you to allow yourself up to 2 hours in the clinic for your cataract surgery. However, the actual time spent working on your eyes is a lot less than that. If your case is reasonably straightforward with no known factors that may cause complications during surgery, it can be over as quickly as 10 minutes for each eye.
Prior to having the actual cataract surgery, your eye surgeon needs to prepare your eye. This involves dilating your pupils with pharmaceutical eye drops. Your pupil is the aperture in the centre of your coloured iris; the cataract in the lens sits behind the iris, so the pupil must be widened for the surgeon to access the lens. The eye area must also be disinfected to reduce your risk of infection. And finally (and very importantly), the operating eye needs to be numbed.
Several factors may affect how long your cataract surgery lasts for. Your time in the operating theatre may be extended if:
- Your eye surgeon is less experienced. Surgeons with more years of experience under their belt may move more quickly and confidently.
- Your pupils cannot be adequately dilated with pharmaceutical eyedrops alone. If the eye drops aren’t enough to widen the pupil properly, your cataract surgeon may need to apply another technique, such as iris expanders or another instrument known as a Malyugin ring.
- You have a local anaesthetic injection instead of just topical anaesthetic eyedrops to numb the eye. This is simply a reflection of the time it takes to administer the type of anaesthesia. Your cataract surgeon will have his or her own preferred method of numbing the eye. Some may use a combination of both local and topical.
- Your cataract surgeon encounters a complication during the surgery. Depending on your situation, a complication may be either expected or unexpected. It may require your surgeon to use additional interventions during the operation, or just move more slowly and carefully.
Is It Possible to Reduce Cataract Surgery Time?
For the most part, there is little you can do to affect the duration of your cataract operation. The various factors that influence the length of a cataract procedure are largely out of your hands, and often even out of your surgeon’s hands. However, a few steps can help to boost your chances of avoiding a protracted cataract surgery.
- Disclose your full medical history to your cataract surgeon. Even if you don’t think that daily hay-fever nasal spray has any bearing on the outcome of your cataract surgery, your cataract surgeon should still know about it. You may be surprised at how many systemic medications and diseases can affect the eyes and vision. Your surgeon cannot make plans for a potential complication during your surgery if he or she is not fully aware of the status of your general health.
- Adhere to any pre-operation instructions. On occasion, patients may be asked to prepare for their cataract operation. This may be for people with significant inflammation around the eyelids, known as blepharitis. Blepharitis can increase your risk of an infection during the operation and recovery stage. Other patients in contact lenses, particularly hard contacts known as rigid gas permeable lenses, may be asked to avoid wearing their lenses for a couple of weeks leading up to their appointment. If you’re at risk of swelling around the macula from the cataract operation, your surgeon may recommend you use anti-inflammatory eyedrops in the day or two leading up to your surgery.
- Check-in with your optometrist or ophthalmologist regularly while waiting for cataract surgery. When your cataracts first begin developing, it’s not typically necessary to undergo an operation immediately. Many people wait happily for years or even decades before feeling that it’s necessary to have their cataracts removed. However, while it’s usually safe to delay cataract surgery as long as your vision is functional, cataracts that are allowed to reach a hyper-mature stage can increase your risk of complications during surgery and also take longer to operate on. It’s not common to see hyper-mature cataracts in Australia, but maintaining routine checks of your cataracts with your eye care professional can help ensure you get cataract surgery at the right time.
- Choose a reputable cataract surgeon. A more skilled and experienced surgeon may be more likely to complete your operation in a shorter time, though, of course, this is not guaranteed. You may want to ask your friends, family, or GP for recommendations.
How Long is the Cataract Surgery Recovery Period?
A full recovery from cataract surgery is typically 4 to 6 weeks. Over this period of time, your sight and any residual prescription may fluctuate slightly as the cornea heals from its incision and the lens implant settles in the eye. However, within a few days after the surgery, most people can already enjoy quite reasonable clarity.
During your post-op recovery, it’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions. This includes keeping the eye clean and protected and avoiding strenuous tasks or activities with a risk of eye trauma.
Call us today on (03) 9070 5753 for a consultation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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