Cataract – on the day of surgery

Arriving at the hospital

You will have been given details of when to arrive at the hospital. Please report to the reception desk and a staff member will accompany you to the ward. If you are having your operation in the morning under a local anaesthetic, then please have a light breakfast before coming into hospital. If you are having a general anaesthetic then please have nothing to eat or drink from midnight. You need to take your regular medications and so a small sip of water with these is advised. During the operation, your eye will be cleaned with an iodine solution. This can sometimes stain clothing and so please do not wear cherished items of clothing on the day of the operation.

On the ward

The nursing staff will greet you and show you to your room. They will fill out your admission details and Mr McLean will see you. Any remaining questions can be answered then. The nurses will put some drops into the eye that is going to be operated on. These drops help to dilate the pupil, an important part of the operation. If you are having your operation under local anaesthetic, you don’t have to change out of your clothes, but a gown is used to cover your clothes. A porter and a nurse will then take you to the operating theatre.

Problems keeping still, lying flat or claustrophobia

During a cataract operation, the patient usually lies flat on a couch in the operating theatre. A pillow is used for head support and a light, sterile plastic cover (a small sheet) is placed over the face to keep the area clean. The light sheet is pulled up, away from the mouth and doesn’t interfere with breathing. At the same time oxygen is passed underneath the sheet to refresh the air supply.

Some people cannot lie flat and still for a number of different reasons. These include breathing problems, heart problems, dizziness, tremors of the body and back problems. For some people, the thought of a drape over the face can be very daunting. It is important that anyone undergoing cataract surgery is as comfortable as possible and so adjusting the couch position for comfort and sometimes using small drapes around the eye are some of the adjustments that can be made before the operation. It is important to mention any conditions that might make it harder for you to be comfortable during the operation, and the appropriate special measures can then be taken to make the whole experience comfortable and pleasant.


There are different options available for anaesthesia during cataract surgery. Most patients opt to have an injection beside the eye to ‘numb’ it. You experience some mild grittiness during the injection but it is not painful. The anaesthetic ensures you feel no discomfort during the operation and often the operating lights appear to be dimmer while the anaesthetic is working. The second option is to perform the operation with only drops to anaesthetise the eye. This is a good option for people who don’t want an injection, but it does mean you have to keep your eye very still. The operating lights can also seem bright with this anaesthetic as the vision is unaffected during the surgery. The last option is to have a general anaesthetic so that you are completely asleep during the surgery and this is a good choice for people who feel especially anxious about the operation.

After the operation

At the end of the operation, a protective cover is placed over the operated eye to protect the eye on your journey home. You will be taken back to your room for something to eat and drink. The nurses will bring you the antibiotic drops which you need to take home and will answer any questions that you might have. It is important to use the drops as instructed for four weeks after the operation. You may need to have your glasses adjusted by your local optician after your operation but it is necessary to wait for at least four weeks before doing this.

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Surrey Eye Surgeons

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