Cataract Surgery Complications Explained

Cataract surgery is carried out successfully on millions of people each year. However, as with any form of surgery, there are potential complications to be aware of.

Mr Zaid Shalchi will go over your specific risk factors and complications during the initial consultation. It is important to remember that even if a complication is common, it may not produce serious adverse effects.

Here, we will address some of the most common cataract surgery complications that can occur during or after the procedure.

What could go wrong during a cataract procedure?

Generally speaking, the chances of something going wrong during a cataract surgery is around 5%. The most common intraoperative complications include:

  • Vitreous loss
  • Zonule dialysis
  • Iris injury
  • Issues with the incision
  • Corneal abrasion

Vitreous loss occurs in approximately 2% of patients. It happens when there is an issue with either the zonules, or capsular bag of the eye. If the vitreous jelly is pushed forward, an anterior vitrectomy will need to be performed. This complication is linked to an increased risk of additional complications post-surgery.

Zonule dialysis and iris injury both have a 0.5% incidence rate. With zonule dialysis, the fibres which support the cataract are weakened. This can make it difficult to implant the intraocular lens. If an iris injury occurs, it can lead to impaired function of the pupil, post-operative inflammation, or glaucoma.

Around 0.3% of patients experience issues with the incision. While not a serious issue, you may need a couple of stitches if an issue does occur. Then, finally, a corneal abrasion occurs in 0.2% of patients. This is basically a scratch on the surface of the corneal. It should heal quickly, with any discomfort and pain fading after 24 to 48 hours.

These are just some of the complications which could arise, though each has a low incidence rate.

Understanding post-surgery complications

Complications may also arise after the surgery has taken place. Some are common, while others are quite rare. These potential complications include:

  • Inflammation
  • Posterior capsule opacification
  • Glaucoma
  • Ptosis
  • Vision loss

Inflammation occurs in 100% of cases. This is a natural side effect of any surgery. To control it, you will be given eye drops and it will resolve itself, typically within a week. Rarely will inflammation become chronic after cataract surgery.

Approximately 30% of people will also suffer with posterior capsule opacification. This causes blurry vision, and it occurs when there is scarring around the implanted lens. A simple laser treatment is usually enough to correct the issue.

You may develop glaucoma temporarily after the procedure. This is mostly short-lived, but in very rare cases it can become a long-term problem. Ptosis is another common complication, causing the upper eyelid to droop. It may require surgery to correct it, though most cases clear up by themselves.

As you can see, there are several complications to be aware of when you are considering cataract surgery. However, the good news is that serious complications are rare, and the majority of patients enjoy a successful procedure.