how long is cataract surgery

How Long is the Cataract Surgery Operation?

If your eye surgeon has just told you that it’s time to have cataract surgery, you probably have a number of questions. In addition to the cost of the operation, you might also be wondering how long is the cataract surgery recovery period, and how long is the cataract surgery itself going to take? Keep reading to find out what to expect about your cataract surgery procedure

Cataract Surgery in Brief

Removing cataracts is considered to be a safe and effective procedure, and is the only definitive way of restoring vision impacted by cataracts. 

When you attend your appointment, you’ll have your pupils dilated with eyedrops. This allows your surgeon to get to the cataract sitting behind the coloured iris. Your eye will be numbed with either a local anaesthetic injection or topical eye drops. Once you’re comfortable, the surgeon will make an incision in the cornea, either with a laser tool or a manual instrument. The cataract is fragmented into smaller pieces using ultrasound energy or a combination of the laser and ultrasound, and then these pieces are removed from the eye. An artificial lens implant is then inserted into the membrane that once held the cataract. This implant can be calculated to correct your eye’s prescription, so many people no longer depend on glasses as heavily after a successful cataract procedure. 


Cataract Surgery Operation

For most uncomplicated cases, the time you spend under the (metaphorical) knife can be as short as 10 minutes per eye. However, from the pre-operation preparation to the time you spend after the surgery itself, you can expect to be at the clinic for up to a couple of hours.

There are a few factors that can affect the duration of your cataract surgery – not all cataract operations are over in 10 minutes. Factors that may lengthen your procedure time can include:

  • Having a less experienced eye surgeon.
  • If your eye surgeon needs to use methods in addition to pharmaceutical eye drops to dilate your pupils in preparation for cataract surgery
  • If your eye surgeon encounters an unexpected (or even expected) complication during your cataract surgery
  • Using local anaesthetic for the operation instead of topical anaesthetic eyedrops. 

A very short cataract surgery duration doesn’t necessarily mean it was better or more successful than an operation that took longer.

cataract surgery procedure melbourneThe success of cataract extraction is dependent on your resultant vision.

However, as many people are not particularly thrilled at the idea of an eye operation, you may prefer to spend as little time in the operating theatre as possible.

Many of the factors relating to an extended cataract surgery operation are beyond your control, and often even beyond the control of the eye surgeon.


There are a few things that you may consider to give you the best chance of keeping your operation time to a minimum, such as:

  • Choosing a more experienced cataract surgeon. You may want to ask for recommendations from family or friends who have had cataract surgery before or speak to your referring GP or optometrist. However, if you’re going through the public healthcare system, it’s not typically possible to choose your operating surgeon. 
  • Following any instructions from your surgeon about preparing for cataract surgery. It’s not that often that patients are asked to prepare ahead of their operation, however, if you are, it would be to help reduce your risk of experiencing a complication during your surgery or during the post-operative healing period. You may be asked to improve your eyelid hygiene with special wipes or solutions or to use medicated eyedrops. 
  • Disclosing your full medical history. When first being assessed for cataract surgery, your eye specialist will go through a number of questions with you, such as your general health and any medications you’re taking. It’s important to be open about your medical history as you may have a condition that appears unrelated but could impact your cataract operation or your risk of a complication during the recovery period
  • Don’t wait for too long before having cataract surgery if your optometrist or eye specialist has recommended it. In developed countries, it’s very uncommon for a cataract to reach what’s known as a hyper-mature stage. However, very advanced cataracts can be more difficult and complicated to operate on and can increase your risk of a complication as well as extend your surgery time. 


How Long is Cataract Surgery Recovery?

Healing fully from cataract surgery usually occurs over 4 to 6 weeks. Though your vision may feel pretty good within a matter of days after your cataract surgery, your eye will continue to heal and your sight may continue to fluctuate over those 6 weeks. 

Most people will be fit to drive after a couple of days, however, it’s wise to wait until your eye specialist has assessed your vision post-operation before you get behind the wheel. In terms of returning to work, office workers may return to their job within a week while those in higher-risk vocations will be advised to take a longer period of leave. This may include construction workers, police, professional athletes in contact sports, and cleaners exposed to dirty environments. Your cataract surgeon will be able to give you tailored advice to your specific situation. 


Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.



8 tips to reduce cataract surgery recovery time.

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