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Cataract Surgery patient information leaflet

How often do complications occur?

Estimated UK complication rates for an average risk cataract case, involving a complication resulting in permanent visual loss, are one in 1000 cases. Complications that might cause this would include:

  • an infection
  • a severe bleed during the operation
  • a blood vessel blockage in the retina or optic nerve.

Cataract surgery can worsen pre-existing eye conditions, such as glaucoma or uveitis or corneal diseases. Being very short sighted increases the risk of retinal detachment.

Estimated UK complication rates for an average risk case, involving a complication resulting in an extended operation, a return to theatre, increased use of drops or tablets or injections after surgery, are one in 30 cases.

In these cases you could expect mildly compromised eyesight. Complications that might cause this would include:

  • loss of all or part of the cataract to the back of the eye
  • retention of a chip of the cataract in the eye
  • high pressure in the eye after surgery
  • low pressure due to a leaking wound
  • clouding of the cornea
  • incorrect strength of lens
  • swelling of the central retina (macular oedema)
  • detached retina
  • imbalance between the eyes
  • allergy to any medication

Overall, based on an average risk case, approximately 95 out of every 100 cataract operations result in improved eyesight. Improved eyesight, however, is not the same as perfect vision. Even with a technically perfect operation, the lens implant is not a perfect replacement for a healthy natural lens. For example, you might notice lens implant reflections and crescent shapes at the edge of your vision. These effects often occur and we are unable to prevent them happening or treat them. They do usually become less obvious with time and most people adapt to them.

Next Section: Glasses after cataract surgery

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