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Visual experience during phacoemulsification cataract surgery under topical anaesthesia
  1. Douglas K Newman
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, West Norwich Hospital, Bowthorpe Road, Norwich NR2 3TU
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Clinic 3 (Box 41), Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ


BACKGROUND/AIMS Visual awareness during phacoemulsification cataract surgery is an important determinant of patient satisfaction with any anaesthetic technique. Topical anaesthesia could be associated with significant visual awareness because it does not affect optic nerve function.

METHODS The visual experience during phacoemulsification cataract surgery under topical anaesthesia (without sedation) was assessed for 106 consecutive unselected patients. Patients were interviewed immediately after surgery using a standardised questionnaire that explored specific aspects of their visual experience.

RESULTS Four patients were excluded because they had poor recollection of their visual experience. The visual awareness of the remaining 102 patients comprised operating microscope light (99), colours (73), flashes of light (7), vague movements (19), surgical instruments or other objects (12), change in light brightness during surgery (49), change in colours during surgery (30), and transient visual alteration during corneal irrigation (25). No patient found their visual experience during surgery unpleasant, though the operating microscope light was uncomfortably bright for two patients. Six patients lost light perception for a short interval during surgery. There was no association between the various visual phenomena reported and patients' age, sex, preoperative visual acuity, cataract morphology, coexisting ocular pathology, or previous experience of cataract surgery under local anaesthesia (p>0.05).

CONCLUSIONS Patients experience a wide variety of visual sensations during phacoemulsification cataract surgery under topical anaesthesia. Topical anaesthesia does not, however, appear to result in greater visual awareness than regional anaesthesia. Preoperative patient counselling should include information about the visual experience during surgery.

  • phacoemulsification
  • anaesthesia
  • visual perception
  • patient satisfaction

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