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Stace Anaesthetists

Anaesthesia for Eye Surgery

Eye surgery is very common, and is able to be performed very quickly by ophthalmologists. In most cases local anaesthetic medications are used to numb the eye and prevent it from moving.

How do I prepare for Eye Surgery?

Please refer to our Pre-operative instructions. Fasting is still required. For some types of eye surgery (especially cataract surgery) it is still permissible to take blood thinning medications. Please check this with you ophthalmologist well before the date of your operation.

What type of Anaesthetic will be used?

There are two broad types of anaesthesia that can be used, usually determined by surgeon preference.

Local anaesthesia:

Local anaesthetic drops or gel are applied to the surface of the eye to numb it before the operation. Often this is combined with a small dose of medication to help relax you and reduce your memory of the surgery.

Eye Block:

This is when the anaesthetist injects local anaesthetic around the eye. Prior to the injection you will often receive some medication to relax you and reduce your memory of the event as well as some local anaesthetic drops onto the eye itself. There may be some minimal discomfort associated with this injection, but most patients will have no recollection of this later.

The local anaesthetic removes pain sensation but it is very common to still be aware of touching around your eye during surgery. This is normal and should not be cause for any concern. The local anaesthetic may also numb your forehead or teeth and gums. It will wear off over several hours but may even last overnight.

After Surgery

Most patients will be able to go home the same day but it is important that you have a responsible adult stay with you overnight. This is because the medications given to relax you may still be having some effect. More importantly, many people find that it can be disorientating having one eye covered and be unsteady when moving around.

Risks and Side Effects

Anaesthesia for eye surgery is very safe, however there are some risks involved. These include:

  • Bruising “black eye” – this is not uncommon and usually disappears in 1-2 weeks.
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Loss of vision – This is a very uncommon complication and occurs less than 1 in 10,000 operations.
  • Brainstem anaesthesia – This is very uncommon and occurs when some of the local anaesthetic passes behind the eye and communicates with the fluid that surrounds the brain. It can result in an epileptic seizure and loss of consciousness. Anaesthetists are trained to manage this situation and usually patients make a full recovery.
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