Do you need a general anaesthetic for cataract surgery?

Eye surgeons perform nearly 8 million cataract surgeries every year across the globe. Although the procedure is common, people can still be understandably nervous and apprehensive. Rest assured that your ophthalmologist is well-trained and has extensive experience in performing cataract surgery.
You are likely to have many questions about cataract surgery, and one of the most commonly asked questions is whether you need a general anaesthetic.

What Is General Anaesthesia (GA)?

General anaesthesia (or GA) is a combination of medications that render a person completely unconscious and non-responsive to pain or reflexes. Patients under a general anaesthetic are entirely unaware of their surroundings and they require assistance to breathe. An anaesthetist also monitors the body’s vital functions. General anaesthesia is usually reserved for more prolonged and invasive procedures.

Do I Need General Anaesthetic for Cataract Surgery?

General anaesthesia can be a daunting thought for most people given the significant impact it can have on the body. The good news is that most patients do not need to undergo general anaesthesia for cataract surgery.

What Type of Anaesthesia Is Used for Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is generally performed with a combination of intravenous twilight sedation and local (topical) anaesthetic in the form of numbing eye drops. The drops are very effective in blocking pain signals from the eye to the brain. The combination of twilight sedation and anaesthetic eye drops ensures that cataract surgery is performed in a pain-free and comfortable way for patients.

What Is Intravenous Sedation?

Intravenous twilight sedation is a fast-acting combination of relaxing medications delivered directly into your bloodstream via a cannula into a vein. As opposed to general anaesthesia, patients under twilight sedation continue to breathe on their own. Most patients enter either a light sleep or have some low-grade awareness of and response to their environment, however, they generally will not remember this (this is known as anterograde amnesia). As with a general anaesthetic, an anaesthetist would be present during the surgery to monitor your vital functions.

After Cataract Surgery

Recovery from intravenous twilight sedation is generally much faster and easier than recovery from a general anaesthetic. After cataract surgery, the sedative effects wear off in about 15 to 20 minutes. Patients can still feel drowsy and experience decreased reaction times, and you, therefore, cannot drive or sign legal documents for 24 hours following surgery. A friend or family member will need to escort you home safely from the hospital.

As with all medicines and procedures, there are some risks with intravenous twilight sedation, including nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, drowsiness, headaches, bruising, and allergic reaction.

Undergoing Cataract Surgery

If you are feeling anxious about your cataract surgery, remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have undergone this same procedure. Moreover, your ophthalmologist can always discuss the surgery in more detail with you and answer your questions to offer further reassurance. Now that you know that most cataract surgeries can be performed with a combination of intravenous twilight sedation and local anaesthetic (numbing eye drops), hopefully you will feel more informed and confident about the prospect of cataract surgery.

Are you looking for an experienced eye doctor for your cataracts? Then, book a consultation to get help from our team.

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A specialist ophthalmic micro surgeon, internationally trained retinal surgeon, medical retinal diseases specialist and cataract surgeon

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