Cataract: How is the operation going and how long does it take?

Most cataract operations are performed on an outpatient basis in the office or clinic. Inpatient admission to the hospital is usually only required if comorbidities on the eye complicate the procedure or surgery under general anesthesia.

How long does a star operation take?

In a very experienced and experienced eye surgeon, the cataract surgery takes about 20 to 30 minutes. There are even shorter times. However, a few minutes or less is certainly not as crucial as the subsequent success and the fact that in most cases the procedure is more or less easily overcome.

Art lens replaces the clouded lens

The principle of surgery: The clouded lens is removed (medical: extracted) and replaced in most cases by an artificial lens. "The Intraocular Lens" call that the physicians. Essentially, there are two surgical procedures to choose from that differ in whether the lens is removed with or without its capsule shell.

In the "intracapsular lens extraction" (this terrible term here, if that should be in your doctor's letter so), the lens is completely removed along with its shell, whereby their holding apparatus for suspension inside the eye is destroyed. The implantation of an artificial lens then takes place in the anterior chamber of the eye. The advantage of this method, namely that it is easier and faster, comes at a higher complication rate.

Most common method: Lens liquefaction with ultrasound

In Germany and also in Europe the "extracapsular lens extraction" is used much more often. In this case, the lens core is liquefied and sucked with the aid of ultrasonic energy. In technical jargon this process is called phacoemulsification.

For those of you who would like to know more in detail:

What the surgeon does

Access to the inside of the eye takes place over a section only a few millimeters long, usually at the junction of the cornea and dermis. A tiny piece of the capsule is cut out, the ultrasound instrument inserted and then the finely chopped lens contents are aspirated with a suction flushing device.

The thin capsular bag is left in place and serves as a support for the replacement lens. This is made of an elastic transparent material and can now conveniently be introduced in the folded state. The required opening is therefore much smaller than before and at the end of the procedure often does not even need to be sewn, but closes valve-like by itself. The implant also unfolds itself at the destination and two semicircular elastic straps on the lens edge become caught in the capsular bag in the posterior chamber and ensure a secure fit. In any case, if everything goes as desired.

Finally, the eye surgeon closes the conjunctiva, which he had to push back at the beginning to gain access to the inner eye. After the care of the eye, an Ointment dressing is created for its protection. They then remain in the recovery room for a while or in the practice for recovery and observation until they are picked up by your companion.

A frequent routine procedure

Cataract surgery is probably the most common surgical procedure in Germany and is usually performed on an outpatient basis and under local anesthesia. For people who are not professional in medicine, the presentation of the procedure in word and especially image may not be very motivating. However, it is a relatively safe procedure with low complication rate and good prospects, in the truest sense of the word.

Author: Dr. Hubertus Glaser