Are Patients Awake for Cataract Surgery?

By Francis Clark M.D. on August 11, 2018

Cataract surgeryIn a cataract surgery, the clouded lens of the eye is broken up and extracted. An intraocular lens (IOL) is then placed into the lens capsule as a replacement for the clouded lens. The procedure has variants, but generally, this is one of the most common ways that a cataract is surgically removed. During the cataract surgery, the vast majority of patients will be conscious and awake.

Being awake during cataract surgery is a source of fear for some patients. We totally understand that. That’s why the team at our Philadelphia, PA eye care center would like to discuss why it’s important for patients to be awake during cataract surgery.

Why Patients Are Awake During Cataract Surgery

While the idea of being awake while a person operates on your eye can be alarming, there are plenty of sound reasons why a patient is conscious during surgery.

As a matter of safety, it is easier to work on a conscious patient rather than a patient under general anesthesia. Surgeons can communicate with the patient as the procedure is going forward, which can be essential for preventing injuries and complications.

Do Some Patients Undergo General Anesthesia for Cataract Surgery?

Only in rare instances will general anesthesia be used during cataract surgery. The vast majority of patients will be conscious during the procedure. These matters can be discussed in greater detail during the consultation process.

Patients Are Given Sedatives and Local Anesthesia

We know that the surgical process can be a source of stress for patients even though cataract removal is routine. This is why we give patients sedative drugs prior to surgery. These sedatives allow patients to be conscious but relaxed during the procedure. In addition, local anesthetic will be administer via eye drops to numb the pain and ensure the surgical procedure goes by smoothly.

In general, the sedatives cause patients to feel groggy during the surgery, though otherwise free from worry. Patients will generally not remember what occurred during the procedure since the sedatives help induce a relaxed state.

How Long Does the Sedative Last?

The effects of sedation will last for a little while after your surgery. Grogginess and fatigue are common. Because of the effects of the sedative, patients will not be able to drive themselves home following the procedure. A family member or loved one should be present with the patient to make sure he or she can get home safely.

What to Expect After the Cataract Removal

Following cataract removal, patients will need to wear sunglasses and eye protection to allow the eyes to heal. Vision will improve over the course of the next few days. Issues with light sensitivity, itchiness or irritation of the eyes, and mild discomfort are all common side effects that fade after a few days.

A few followup visits with the eye doctor are common to ensure that the procedure goes by smoothly.

Is Cataract Surgery Safe?


The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) estimates that 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year. The overall success rates of surgery are 98 percent or higher.

Discuss These Issues to Reduce Anxiety

Again, we understand your concerns about your vision and the nature of the surgery can be the source of fear. But that is why our team is here. We can discuss all of your concerns in greater detail, helping you to feel more confident about your vision, the health of your eyes, and any treatments you need.

If you have any questions about vision health or your eyesight, we’re more than happy to answer them for you.

Contact Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons

For more information about cataract surgery and how it can help you, be sure to contact Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons. Our team is here to offer answers and insight you can use regarding your vision and the health of your eyes.

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