Removing the cataract and inserting an intraocular lens usually takes the surgeon ten to fifteen minutes. The entire process, from arriving at the hospital or surgical center to going home, takes about half a day. Less than 1% of surgeries require an overnight hospital stay.
On the day of your surgery, or a few days ahead of time, you may need to see your primary care doctor for a few tests. Because you will be given some form of anesthesia, your doctor will probably ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery. If you take medicines or have diabetes, ask your doctor whether different guidelines apply.
On the day of your surgery, you will be given some eye drops to widen (dilate) your pupils. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax. A healthcare worker will take you into the operating room where an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will give you a local or an intravenous anesthetic. He or she will monitor your condition.
You will not feel the surgery because the topical anesthetic numbs your eye during the operation. You may see some lights or vague shapes, but that is all.
Your surgeon will use a special microscope, which magnifies and illuminates the area of the procedure as he or she removes your cataract.
You may not remember much about the operation after it is over. You may feel a little drowsy afterward, but as the sedative wears off, you will be encouraged to walk around a bit. Your doctor will monitor your condition for a while, explain how to care for your eye at home and schedule a follow-up appointment.
Once you’re fully recovered, you will be allowed to go home. It is a good idea to have a friend or relative drive you. You may feel tired after surgery, so try to relax the rest of the day.
At home, you should not experience much discomfort. Some people describe the feeling as having an eyelash or a cinder in their eye—slightly uncomfortable but not painful. You will apply eye drops or ointment as your doctor prescribes, and you will learn to rely on your untreated eye during this time.