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What is Ophthalmic Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ophthalmic surgery is surgery on the eye, performed to address anything from a clinical emergency to poor vision. It is performed by a surgeon with special training in management of eye conditions, and can be an outpatient procedure, depending on the surgery and how well the patient responds to it. As with other kinds of surgery, when ophthalmic surgery appears necessary, the patient will have a chance to meet with the surgeon to discuss plans for the procedure and learn more about aftercare.

In some procedures, patients may be placed under general anesthesia for comfort and safety. Other patients may be given a regional or local anesthetic, allowing them to stay awake during ophthalmic surgery. Sedation is usually offered to keep the patient comfortable and to reduce the risks of moving while the surgery takes place, as this could endanger the patient's sight. Children are most commonly placed under general anesthesia, under the belief that it may be less traumatic than remaining awake for the surgery.

Numerous surgeries have been developed to treat eye conditions. These include things like removing cataracts, implanting artificial lenses, cornea replacement surgeries, and surgical repairs to the eye and surrounding structures, like the eyelids. For vision correction, an ophthalmic surgeon can work with a laser to resurface the cornea and address refraction errors. The procedures available vary from surgeon to surgeon, and some people specialize in particular activities, like elective surgeries to correct vision.

In ophthalmic surgery, the eye is exposed and held open with special surgical tools while the surgeon works. Once the procedure is complete, the patient may temporarily need to wear a bandage covering the eye. Antibiotic medications are usually offered to prevent infection, and the patient may need to observe some special hygiene precautions during recovery with the goal of keeping the eye as healthy as possible and preventing complications.

For procedures like enucleation, where the eye is removed altogether because of extensive damage, infection, or other issues, the ophthalmic surgery will include treatment of the surrounding area, along with preparations to keep the eye socket healthy so it will be able to accept a prosthesis at some point in the future. Once the socket is completely healed, the surgeon can send the patient to a prosthetics specialist to discuss options and be fitted for a new eye. While it will not be functional, it can help with distress caused by cosmetic concerns.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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