Yes, patients are usually awake during cataract surgery as this removes the risks associated with general anesthesia. General anesthesia involves putting the patient to sleep. When a patient is kept awake, it allows the cataract surgeon to communicate with the patient throughout the entire procedure.

Many people are afraid of the idea of being awake during surgery. If this concerns you, fret not. Cataract surgery patients are given oral medication before the procedure, which allows them to feel relaxed with no discomfort. Your doctor may also give you the choice of receiving intravenous (IV) medication to ensure you remain comfortable during the surgery.

In either case, the eye being operated will be numbed so that you don’t feel any pain.

Cataract Surgery Preparation

Since cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, you don’t have to plan a hospital stay. The process takes about 15 minutes, during which you can choose to stay alert and awake. Alternatively, you can opt for conscious sedation via medication that will keep you awake, but feeling relaxed and comfortable. The medicine may cause grogginess and make it difficult for you to recall your experience during surgery after the 15-minute procedure is complete.

You will be given a mild sedative at the surgery center and transferred to the operating room, once you’re sedated. The nurses will clean the region around the eye that is going to be operated and place eye drops that will dilate your pupil.

The surgeon will then use anesthetic drops to numb the eye as well as the region surrounding it. This will prevent any pain and discomfort during your surgery.

Surgery involves removing the cataract and replacing it with a clear lens that will improve your vision. There are a few different methods to do this. Ask your doctor to explain the technique that fits you best and the benefits and risks associated with it.

While you can leave the surgery center after your cataract surgery, you will not be able to drive. Therefore, make sure you have someone with you to drive you home and keep an eye on you for the next two days.

Removing the Old Lens

Once you are numb, the surgeon will make a tiny incision in the outer covering of your eye, called the cornea. This incision will allow the surgeon to insert surgical instruments. During the removal of your cataract, a probe is inserted via the incision and high-frequency sound waves are employed to break the cataract into smaller fragments. The probe suctions out these fragments from your eye.

Inserting the New Lens

An injector tool is inserted using the same incision to place the IOL into the capsule of your eye, replacing the old lens. After the IOL unfolds into place, the surgeon may make some minor adjustments to align the new lens according to the measurements taken before surgery.

Post-Surgery Cataract Surgery Care

After the new lens has been placed, you will be transferred to the recovery room to rest for a while. Your medical team may place a patch over the operated eye and watch for any problems post-surgery. Most people can return home after a 30 minute recovery period, after which you will be asked to take it easy for at least 2 days.