by EBSCO Medical Review Board

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This surgery removes a cataract from the eye and replaces it with an artificial one. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens that makes it hard for a person to see. It gets worse over time.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to improve vision.

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Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Damage to the eye
  • Decreased vision
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Detached retina
  • Droopy eyelid

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as an amplitude scan to measure the eye for the artificial lens


The doctor will give a local anesthesia. The eye will be numbed.

Description of the Procedure

There are two main types of cataract removal.

Phacoemulsification Technique

This is the most common method. A probe will be used to break the cloudy lens into tiny fragments. A tiny cut will be made in the eye. The fragments will be vacuumed out through the cut. The artificial lens will put in place. Stitches are not usually needed. A shield will be put over the eye.

Extracapsular Technique:

The recovery time for this surgery is longer. A tiny cut will be made in the eye. The cataract and the anterior capsule of the lens will be removed in one piece through the cut. The artificial lens will be put in place. The cut will be closed with stitches. A shield will be put over the eye.

How Long Will It Take?

Less than 1 hour

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There may be mild discomfort for a few days after surgery. Medicine and home care can help.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you eye drops
  • Do another eye exam
At Home

It will take 4 to 6 weeks for the eye to heal. Vision may be worse before it slowly gets better. Physical activity may need to be limited during this time. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work.

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or discharge from the eye
  • Eye pressure
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Vision problems, such as double vision, flashes of light, floaters, or a loss of vision

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Optometric Association 

Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology 


Canadian Ophthalmological Society 

Health Canada 


Cataract surgery. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Cataract surgery: risks, recovery, costs. EyeSmart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

Cataracts in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 8, 2022.

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