Cataract Surgery: Explained


A cataract is treated with a highly successful and minimally invasive surgery that removes the opaque natural lens and replaces it with a clear artificial lens implant, most commonly made of a thin acrylic plastic, that remains in the eye for the rest of your life. The cataract cannot be treated in the office or with a laser, and it requires a small amount of time in the operating room. Cataract surgery has become the most common surgical procedure by annual volume, with more than three million Americans undergoing cataract surgery every year.

Is the surgery painful? How long does it take? Am I awake during the surgery?

Cataract surgery is completely painless and most cataracts can be removed in under 15 minutes. We use a combination of local anesthesia to numb the eye with what’s called “monitored anesthesia care” (MAC) which involves a cocktail of relaxing medicines to help you stay comfortable and relaxed during the brief surgery. Most patients describe the experience as being in a twilight state as if about to fall asleep, and many patients have little recollection of details of the surgery itself. Every patient is different, and some are aware and can remember more details than others. It’s outpatient day surgery, as in patients go home the same day but need a driver.

What kind of vision can I expect after cataract surgery?

In an otherwise healthy eye, 20/20 uncorrected (without glasses) distance vision is the goal and is a reasonable expectation. Any issues with the retina (such as diabetic eye disease, retinal detachment) or optic nerve (such as glaucoma) may limit the best outcome. Additional reading glasses are needed to read fine print up close. There are special “multifocal” and “enhanced depth of focus” lenses designed to improve uncorrected near/reading vision, but these lenses have side effects and require an in depth discussion.

Can cataract surgery be combined with retina surgery?

Dr. Kavoussi has extensive experience as both a retina surgeon and a cataract surgeon. During his residency at Yale, he performed more cataract surgeries than any other resident in the program in over a decade, helping to improve the vision of many American war veterans at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in West Haven, CT.

Most retina conditions require vitrectomy surgery, which has the side effect of causing a patient’s cataract to slowly worsen over 1-2 years following vitrectomy. Nearly 90% of patients with a history of vitrectomy go on to require a return to the operating room for cataract surgery by the end of the second year.

Over the years, Dr. Kavoussi has integrated cataract surgery into many of his retina procedures with the goal of giving the patient the best outcome with a single surgery, thus minimizing the patient’s time in the operative room, infection risk, post-operative recovery time, and time away from work. Every patient is different on a case by case basis, and he will discuss all risks and benefits of combining the two surgeries at your pre-operative visit.