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Having a Cataract Operation

CataractCataract operations are now very common day case procedures.  However, it is still an operation and can make people very scared.  I have met many patients who have cancelled their booked procedure because they are too frightened to come in on the day.  This is such a shame as this procedure is the most successful operation done in Australia today.  There is no need to be afraid, so I have written this article do demystify what will happen.  Please note that this only applies for the public hospital system.  Private surgical facilities may have different procedures.

  1. When you arrive you will meet lots of different people – the ward clerk, the nurses, the anaesthetist and the eye registrar.  All of them will ask you questions about your contact details, past medical history, medications and allergies.  Do not be concerned if everyone keeps asking you which eye you are having your operation on!!  It is not because we don't know, it is a way of double checking. 
  2. Then you will change into a hospital gown or dressing gown and the nurses will put a series of drops in your eyes, similar to the ones you have had in eye clinic.  All of this can take a couple of hours.
  3. Up in the anaesthetic bay the anaesthetist will give you whichever anaesthetic has been decided on.  Usually this is a small dose of medication through your veins to make you a bit sleepy and relaxed, and a numbing injection near the eye.
  4. Finally you make it in to the operating room – lots of equipment, lights and people.  Once again we check you name and the type of operation we are doing – yes, even more double checking!! 
  5. The skin around your eye is cleaned and sterile sheets cover the rest of your face and upper body.  There will be plenty of oxygen coming in under the sheets, and you will still be able to speak in case there is anything you need to tell us.
  6. Once the operation begins you will feel the doctors' hands on your forehead and cheeks, but you will not feel any pain from the eye.  Some people see multi-coloured lights, and others see nothing, depending on the type of anaesthetic you have been given.  At some times in the procedure you will hear some buzzing and beeping noises, this is the ultrasound machine dissolving the cataract.  You will also hear the doctors and nurses talking.  It is also normal to feel some water running down your cheek and even in to your ear – don't worry we will clean the up at the end.  All you do is lie back and let us do the work.   At the end we take the sheets off, sometimes they are sticky and most people tell us that taking the sheets off is the worst part of the whole procedure!
  7. After the operation, you will have an eye patch put over the operated eye and then you will finally be allowed to have something to eat and drink out in the recovery room.
  8. The nurses run some final checks and give you your eye drops before letting you go home.  You can rest at home for the day, leave the eye pad as it is until you see the doctor the next day. 

Preparing for the operation takes longer than the actual procedure.  At all times you will have lots of kind staff members around who can answer your questions.  As you can see, there is nothing to be worried about.

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