Guide to how the local anesthetic will be given and monitored during your operation

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Patient Information – Local Anesthesia for your Eye Surgery

Cataract – RLE – Squint Correction

You have been offered an eye operation under Local Anesthetic. This document explains what a local anesthetic for eye surgery is and gives a step by step guide to how the local anesthetic will be given and monitored during your operation.

Local Anesthesia

What are the advantages of local anesthesia?

A local anesthetic generally works well at preventing you feeling any pain during the operation. It also gives you pain relief after the operation for several hours. It usually has few risks and side effects. This is because it doesn’t affect any other part of your body, such as your breathing or your heart. People recover more quickly following surgery under local anesthetic and can go home on the same day. You can continue to take any prescribed medicine you are on and may be able to eat and drink as normal.

Who administers the local anesthetic and how is it given?

Eye surgeons are trained to administer local anesthetic. There are two types of local anesthetic:

  • Most operations are suitable to be carried out with numbing eye drops only

  • Some operations require local anesthetic injections as well as numbing eye drops. Injections are necessary for operations on the muscles of the eyes and on the eye lids, lower and upper. The injection is given around the eye (avoiding the eyeball itself)

Is the local anesthetic injection painful?

This varies from person to person. Eye drops that numb the surface of the eye are used first to make it as comfortable as possible. A very fine needle is used and there may be a feeling of stinging or pressure which usually lasts less than a minute

Are there any complications of local anesthesia?

Local anesthesia for eye surgery is regarded as the safest anesthetic for many people. Sometimes you may develop bruising or a black eye as the injection damages a small blood vessel around the eye. This is not usually serious but can look unsightly for a week or so. It is more common if you take aspirin or other drugs that thin the blood.

Rarely, there is more important bleeding around the eye. This can mean your operation will have to be delayed to another day.

Serious Complications

Although rare or very rare, damage to the eye, blood vessels or eye muscles and effects on your heart, blood pressure and breathing can happen.

Peri- and retro-bulbar injections are trickier and can result in retrobulbar haemorrhage, globe puncture, optic nerve damage, muscle palsy and seventh cranial nerve complications.

Systemic complications can occur if very large dose is injected. These include vasovagal reactions, confusion, respiratory depression, convulsions, hypotension and bradycardia.

Local anesthetic is not normally recommended if you:

  • Cannot lie reasonably flat

  • Have an illness that makes being still difficult, eg Parkinson’s Disease

  • Have a cough you cannot control

  • Have severe hearing difficulties

  • Will have difficulty understanding what is being said

  • Have severe presbyopia

  • Have a known allergy to local anesthetic drugs

Before the Operation

Health Check: The Pre-Operative Evaluation

Once the operation date is planned, your health check is essential. You will be sent to your General Practitioner and a form will be given to you, so your GP can fill it up. Your health is checked and a full medical history is taken. If you need any tests, these will be arranged by your GP. We will also ask you about your home situation to make sure you have enough support after the operation.

You will be asked about:

  • General health and fitness

  • Medical problems

  • Heart disease

  • Lung disease

  • Pain in the chest during exercise or at rest

  • Diabetes

  • Your current medication

  • If you are pregnant

  • Allergies

  • Smoking

  • Alcohol intake

  • Help you have at home

The Day of the Operation

You will receive clear instructions about if and when you should stop eating or drinking.

You can continue to take most prescribed medication as normal, including up to and on the day of your operation. If you are taking blood thinning agents, please inform your surgeon. Also inform your surgeon if you are Diabetic.

If you have a cough or heavy cold on the day of the surgery, your operation might need to be postponed.

  • Please bring any medication you are taking with you to the clinic on the day of your operation so that the surgeon and nurses can check them out.

In the clinic

You will be seen by your eye surgeon. Your eye surgeon will check and mark the eye that is being operated on and discuss the operation with you. You will be asked to sign a consent form and your forehead may be marked on the side of the eye to be operated on.

What happens next?

  • You may be asked to put on a hospital disposable gown. You will keep your own clothes on and you should wear comfortable clothing that is loose around the neck.

  • Depending on the type of operation you are having the nurses may give you some eye drops to dilate your pupil. These may make your sight slightly blurred. Anesthetic eye drops may also be commenced at this stage

  • It is sensible to use the toilet before you go to the operating theatre, so that you can lie still comfortably

  • The recovery area nurse will accompany you to the operating theatre.

  • Safety Checks – Nurses will ask you some questions to check who you are, and what operation you are having. They will check again with you which eye is being operated on and check your consent form. This is done to be in line with the latest guidelines issued by the World Health Organization – Safe Surgery Checklist

Can I have something to calm me down?

Our doctors and nurses are very used to helping people relax. Sedatives can sometimes make you very sleepy and slow your breathing during the operation. Please discuss your wishes with your eye surgeon.

What happens in the Operating Theatre?

You will be made comfortable on the operating table and our nurses will attach you to equipment to monitor:

  • Your heart rate: a clip will be placed on your finger (pulse oximeter)

  • Your oxygen level in the blood: pulse oximeter

  • Your blood pressure: a blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm if necessary

The eye surgeon will then give you the eye drops and/or injection which numb the eye.

After the local anesthetic is given, your eye will be kept closed to prevent from anything touching and damaging the surface of the eye.

Will the local anesthetic injection hurt?

This varies from person to person. There may be stinging, pressure or pain which usually lasts less than a minute.

How do I know that the Anesthetic is working?

Your eye surgeon will check your eye to make sure it is numb. You may be asked to look in different directions to assess the effects of the anesthetic.

The Operations

  • The nurse will check that you are lying comfortably on the operating table and that your head is supported.

  • A sterile surgical sheet will be placed over your face to keep the area around your eye clean. The sheet will have a hole in it so the surgeon can see your eye to be operated on.

  • A tube may be placed under the surgical sheet which will blow fresh air around your mouth and nose. This is to help your breathe easily and feel comfortable during the operation.

  • You may be aware of the area around your eye being cleaned with a cold fluid to keep it sterile.

  • You may feel a bit of water running down your face. This is quite normal as the surgeon uses a very weak salt-water solution to keep your eye moist.

Can I speak during the operation?

It is best not to speak whilst the surgeon is operating on your eye as this will make your face move and could affect the surgery. I you want to say something, you will be asked to move your hand gently and the eye surgeon will stop operating so that you can speak.

Will I see anything?

You will usually be able to see bright lights and you may see some movements during the operation. This varies from person to person. You will not be able to see any detail.

What else will happen?

The surgeon operates with fine instruments that reach inside your eye. You will be aware that the surgeon is working and will feel some pressure. If you are uncomfortable in any way, please let the theatre staff know. More local anesthetic can be given if necessary.

What if I blink?

A small clip keeps your eyelids open so you do not need to worry about blinking.

Can I wear my hearing aid during the operation?

It is usual practice to remove the hearing aid on the same side as your eye being operated on because, no matter how careful your eye surgeon is, water can enter the ear and the hearing aid may start to make noises.

After the Operation

A nurse will escort you back to the recovery area. Your eye may be covered with a shield or eye pad until the following day to protect it and stop you from rubbing it whilst asleep. You will be discharged home after some time. Before you go, the recovery nurse will give you written instructions about recovering from your surgery, for example what activities to avoid. The nurse will tell you about any medication you need to take and will show you how to put the eye drops if you are unsure. You will be asked to come back to the clinic for further follow up appointments.

Will I be in pain?

You may feel some discomfort when the anesthetic wears off and a mild pain killer such as paracetamol may be required. Our nurses and doctors will advise you on this before your discharge. For this reason, it is good if you can have someone to help you at home and stay with you for the first night following the surgery. If you experience severe pain, contact us immediately.

When can I drive?

You will need to ask your surgeon how long you should wait before driving, as it varies from person to person.

Do I need to take special care?

You will receive individual instructions about the care of your eye, but you should think about the following:

  • Avoid rubbing the eye

  • If you are a restless sleeper, wear an eye shield so you can’t rub your eye without knowing when asleep

  • Contact us if you notice worsening of your symptoms, for example if your vision gets worse, if you develop new symptoms or if the eye becomes painful.

  • Avoid very heavy lifting, strenuous exercise and swimming until you get the all clear from your doctor.

  • Take care in windy weather in case you get something in your eye. Sunglasses can give some extra protection form dust and grit.

Where can I get further information?

If you want to ask any further questions about your surgery, please contact us via phone or e mail.

Phone Number: +36 1 788-2927

E mail:

Patient Information – Local Anesthesia for your eye operation SJHB-07 doc 7 V1

Author: Tanya Costa

January 2014 Saint James Hospital - Budapest

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