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.

Share This Post!

Take our quick cataract surgery suitability quiz

When it comes to cataract surgery, there is a world of choice available that most people sadly miss. Avoid disappointment and discover which option is best suited to your needs and lifestyle in just a few minutes:


Find our Auchenflower location

Find our Upper Mt Gravatt location

We’ve helped thousands of Queenlanders rejuvenate their eyes

"Very friendly and professional staff. Dr Russell is extremely informative and has a really positive presence. The doctor and all of the staff ensured all my questions were answered fully. I left the surgery feeling as if I’d been really well cared for."

Suzanne Cooper

"The staff are all friendly and helpful."

Alana Jenkins

"Dr Russell and the entire team should be commended for their genuine care and personal attention. They made every possible effort to explain and clarify the treatment required and made sure I was comfortable through the consultation treatment."

Xerxes Meher

"Dr Russell is my hubby’s specialist for years. We love him. Such a kind person and always spends time to explain everything."

Zita Farczadi Kershaw

"Many thanks for your care and skill and a big thanks to all your staff for their friendly care and professionalism shown each time I have visited."

Henry Ellison

"My wife came to see Dr Russell today and we wanted to say thank you to all the staff for the kind and professional service. We are also extremely grateful for Dr Russell’s generosity when it came to us paying for the consultation. We wanted to reach out and say thank you so much!"

Troy and Liana Todd

We have replaced the images of real patients who provided these testimonials to protect their privacy.

Take the first step to get more clarity from your vision and confidence in your life

Book a consultation, and one of our Brisbane eye experts will guide you towards the very best treatment for your eyes so you can get the results you’re looking for

Book a consultation

About Brisbane’s Eye Specialist

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

Dr Matthew Russell, MBChB, FRANZCO

Brisbane Eye Surgeon

With a career that spans over 15 years, I have mastered the ability to achieve results that help patients regain their confidence and youthful energy.

When it comes to restoring the eye’s function, there is a world of choice available that most people miss. It is my responsibility as a specialist ophthalmic surgeon, to help you avoid the agonising anxiety and regret that comes with not knowing all your options.

I believe your lifestyle should dictate your vision, not the other way around. It’s my personal goal to align your vision with your lifestyle so that you can conquer life’s challenges and remain the version of yourself you most want to be.

Let me help you get your life back.

More about Dr Russell