25th of August 2020

How safe is cataract surgery operation?

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful operations worldwide. As operations go, it is also one of the most impactful – especially for individuals who have suffered with very dense cataracts before surgery. The rapid change from poor to excellent vision is remarkable, and is quite moving for me to witness. It is a privilege to improve people’s lives in such a meaningful manner.

For the vast majority of people with cataracts that I see, cataract surgery is performed at a consistently high standard. However I believe it is always important to disclose all potential risks, however small.

Cataract surgery, like all operations, is not risk free – potential complications can occur, even though these are very rare. In cataract surgery, tiny incisions are made in the cornea, the clear part at the front of the eye, through which the cataract is reached. These can be made with laser or conventional surgical instruments/blades. The cataract is suspended in the eye in a very delicate bag. The cataract is removed from the bag and an artificial intraocular lens is placed in the same bag – this lens is the secret to great vision post-operatively. Rarely the bag can break at the time of cataract surgery – leading to two main problems: 1) Vitreous(gel) that should be stay behind the lens bag can now come forward and affect the structures in the front of the eye; 2) the lens does not sit where it should, or needs to be replace by an alternative lens, which can affect the final vision.

Sometimes, in eyes that have pre-existing conditions like retinal disease, eye inflammation (uveitis) or glaucoma, cataract surgery can aggrevate their pre-existing condition. For instance, in eyes with uncontrolled uveitis cataract surgery can result in a worsening of the inflammation; in uncontrolled glaucoma cataract surgery can cause the eye pressure to rise. It is important to ensure these conditions are stable and controlled before cataract surgery, and during cataract surgery extra care is taken to prevent these problems from worsening.

I only recommend cataract surgery for patients for whom the benefits of cataract surgery outweigh the small (but real) potential risks of the operation.