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Everything you need to know about a cataract procedure. What happens before, during and after?

Cataract surgery is one of the most popular procedures performed worldwide. Each year, over 9.5 million cataract surgeries are performed across the world.[1]

Despite its popularity, it is completely normal to feel nervous before your operation. Our team at George St Eye Centre will run through what happens before, during and after a cataract procedure to best prepare you for your surgery.



Before having the cataract surgery, you must have your eyes assessed by a specialised refractive surgeon.  During this consultation, scans of your eye will be taken including an A-scan of your lens which provides important information about the power and shape of your individual lens. A detailed account of your medical history will also be taken, including any medications you take, whether you have diabetes and other health conditions.

Lens choice

An important decision to make before having the operation is the choice of which artificial intraocular lens (IOL) to use. There are many types of IOLs available, each having varying visual benefits. Your ophthalmologist will recommend you a lens but ultimately the choice is up to you.

Read our post here for a breakdown of the different types of IOLs available and their visual effects.

Leading up to the operation

The day before your operation, the day surgery which you are booked in will give you a call to run through the preoperative instructions. This includes details on fasting (liquids and solids) and what time to arrive at the facility.


When is the procedure performed?

Your cataract procedure is usually scheduled 1-4 weeks after having the consultation. This is to give time to order your lens, as some premium lenses take some time to arrive, and to prepare your hospital admission.

Where will it be performed?

Your cataract procedure is performed at a day theatre. George St Eye Centre performs cataract surgeries at 3 different day theatres, all of which are fully accredited against the National Safety and Quality in Health Services Standards (NSQHS) and equipped with local anesthesia and intravitreal sedation.

How long is the procedure?

Cataract operations do not require an overnight stay at a hospital. You will spend approximately 2.5 to 3 hours at the facility on the day, with the actual procedure taking only around 20 minutes.

Will I feel pain?

‘Twilight’ anesthesia is used during your procedure; this means you will feel no pain and be slightly sleepy yet still maintain consciousness. Different from general anesthesia, this means you are still responsive and are able to communicate with your surgeon during your operation.

How is the procedure performed?

There are two methods to remove cataracts – phacoemulsification and laser-assisted cataract surgery. The choice of which method is used is decided by your surgeon.

Read our previous post to learn more about how cataract surgery is performed and the difference between the two methods.

Will both eyes be operated at once?

Usually, only one eye is operated on at a time, with surgery on the second eye performed a few weeks later. This is to reduce the risk of serious visual impairment if complications were to occur in both eyes. In saying that, the risk of eye infection and intraoperative complications from cataract surgeries are very low.


Before you leave

Before you leave the day theatre, an eye patch/shield will be placed over your operated eye to make sure you do not rub your eye during sleep. This will be removed the next day at your follow up appointment.

As you have been sedated, you also must have someone drive you home after your operation. When you get home, it is recommended that you rest your eyes and sleep.

The day after cataract surgery

You will need to come back to our clinic the morning after your cataract procedure for a post-operative appointment. This is so we can make sure your eye is healing appropriately.

Most patients can see some visual benefit from their IOL immediately after their operation. However, it is completely normal for your eyes to feel gritty and be more sensitive to lights. This is temporary and will subside as your eye heals.


After the post-operative appointment, you will need to come back for repeat follow up visits, the frequency of which is dependent on how your eye is recovering.

During this time, you will need to use prescribed eye drops multiple times a day for several weeks to reduce infection and inflammation. Most people can resume normal activities after 24 hours. However, we recommend that you avoid rubbing your eyes, eye makeup and any strenuous activities for up to two weeks.

For more information on the do’s and don’ts after cataract surgery, read our post here,

Final steps

Once your surgeon is happy with the recovery of your first eye, the final step is to book a cataract procedure for your second eye. Booking the surgery follows the same procedure as your first eye and is usually done at the time of your follow up appointment.

Our expert team at George Street Eye Centre are cataract specialists who have improved the vision of hundreds of Sydney residents using cataract eye surgery.  If you would like more information, please call us on (02) 9230 0010, or contact us online.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3185079/

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