Cataract surgery has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Many patients remember the days when the operation required a hospital stay of several days with the patient’s head in sandbags and weeks of recovery. Retinal detachment was a frequent complication and thick aphakic glasses were necessary for clear vision. Today’s cataract surgery is totally different. The operation is now done on an outpatient basis, usually only a two to three-hour stay.
- The actual surgery is ten to 20 minutes in length and typically painless. A mild sedative takes care of any anxiety during the surgery.
- A very small incision is made through a bloodless area of the eye and the cataract is removed with ultrasound.
- A foldable implant is rolled up like a carpet and insert through the same small incision. It is fitted into the eye behind the pupil where the cataract was located before removal. Suturing is generally not necessary. The wound seals on its own and is quite secure.
- A seal protects the eye the first day and then the patient wears a shield at night for a week. Regular activity is possible right away. Eyedrops are used on a tapering schedule for one month after surgery to reduce the risk of infection and help to heal.
New glasses, if necessary, are prescribed two to three weeks after surgery. If the second eye has a cataract it can be done within three to four weeks. Whether or not glasses are needed depends on the implant lens chosen.
Complications are rare and the success rate is in excess of 95%. The cataract will not grow back after surgery. However, the membrane, which supports the intraocular lens implant, can become cloudy in some patients months or years later. If this occurs, simple laser treatment is all that is necessary to restore clear vision.