What are the risks associated with cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is an extremely safe and effective procedure, but there are rare cataract surgery risks associated with the surgery. These complications are unusual, but some of them are potentially sight-threatening. Some patients do not like to hear about scary problems related to a medical procedure. If this is you then skip this section. We believe that it is important for you to understand all the possible risks associated with a procedure. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection with cataract surgery. A severe infection inside the eye, known as endophthalmitis, may occur. In the United States only 1 out of every 500 surgeries develops an infection. This can often be treated without any permanent vision loss. Antibiotic eye drops are used before and after the surgery to reduce the possibility of infection.

Several problems could result in the need for additional surgery in the weeks or months following cataract surgery. This situation occurs in less than 1-in-100 patients. Problems requiring an additional surgery include retinal detachment; cataract fragments retained in the eye, poor position of the artificial lens implant, and blurred vision due to incorrect lens power.

  • The retina is the layer of tissue inside the eye that allows you to see. As a result of the surgery, the retina may detach, similar to wallpaper peeling off a wall. Should this occur, a retina specialist will need to perform another procedure to reattach the retina.
  • At times, pieces of the cataract break off and are not able to be removed completely from the eye. In some cases, a small piece will not create problems. With bigger fragments, a second procedure is required to remove them.
  • The new lens implanted after the cataract is removed is held in position by a very thin membrane. Any weakness or tear in this membrane may cause the lens to shift and no longer be in perfect position. If the shift is large enough to affect the vision, a second procedure may be necessary to reposition the lens implant.
  • The power of your lens implant is determined using complex math equations and detailed measurements of your eye. Small errors in these measurements may result in an overestimation or underestimation of the power of the lens implant. In rare cases, a second operation may be required to remove the old lens and replace it with a better one.

Swelling develops when tissue injury occurs. You may have seen a friend or relative with a sprained ankle and noticed the bruising and swelling that developed. Swelling can also occur as a result of a cataract procedure. It occurs most commonly in the cornea, but can also be seen in the retina. When present, swelling can cause the vision to be blurry. The treatment for retinal swelling is anti-inflammatory eye drops. Your consent form contains a detailed list of possible side effects and complications from cataract surgery. Please read it carefully and ask Dr. DeBry or your surgery counselor any questions you may have about risks from the surgery.


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