Eye surgery
Eye surgery in the Middle Ages
OPS-301 code5-08...5-16
Ophthalmologic Surgeon, Ophthalmologist, Eye Surgeon
  • Physician
  • Surgeon
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Medicine, surgery
Education required
Fields of
Hospitals, clinics

Eye surgery, also known as ophthalmic surgery or ocular surgery, is surgery performed on the eye or its adnexa.[1] Eye surgery is part of ophthalmology and is performed by an ophthalmologist or eye surgeon. The eye is a fragile organ, and requires due care before, during, and after a surgical procedure to minimize or prevent further damage. An eye surgeon is responsible for selecting the appropriate surgical procedure for the patient, and for taking the necessary safety precautions. Mentions of eye surgery can be found in several ancient texts dating back as early as 1800 BC, with cataract treatment starting in the fifth century BC.[2] It continues to be a widely practiced class of surgery, with various techniques having been developed for treating eye problems.

Preparation and precautions

Main article: Anaesthesia for ocular surgery

Since the eye is heavily supplied by nerves, anesthesia is essential. Local anesthesia is most commonly used. Topical anesthesia using lidocaine topical gel is often used for quick procedures. Since topical anesthesia requires cooperation from the patient, general anesthesia is often used for children, traumatic eye injuries, or major orbitotomies, and for apprehensive patients. The physician administering anesthesia, or a nurse anesthetist or anesthetist assistant with expertise in anesthesia of the eye, monitors the patient's cardiovascular status. Sterile precautions are taken to prepare the area for surgery and lower the risk of infection. These precautions include the use of antiseptics, such as povidone-iodine, and sterile drapes, gowns, and gloves.

Laser eye surgery

See also: Laser surgery § Eye surgery

Although the terms laser eye surgery and refractive surgery are commonly used as if they were interchangeable, this is not the case. Lasers may be used to treat nonrefractive conditions (e.g. to seal a retinal tear).[3] Laser eye surgery or laser corneal surgery is a medical procedure that uses a laser to reshape the surface of the eye to correct myopia (short-sightedness), hypermetropia (long-sightedness), and astigmatism (uneven curvature of the eye's surface). Importantly, refractive surgery is not compatible with everyone, and people may find on occasion that eyewear is still needed after surgery.[4]

Recent developments also include procedures that can change eye color from brown to blue.[5][6] Before proceeding with laser surgery, the eye specialist needs to certify that the patient is a suitable candidate for the surgery and there are several factors to be considered before doing laser surgery.[7]

This section needs expansion with: laser eye surgery for other purposes. You can help by adding to it. (December 2023)

Cataract surgery

Main article: Cataract surgery

Cataract surgery, using a temporal approach phacoemulsification probe (in right hand) and "chopper" (in left hand) being done under operating microscope at a Navy medical center

A cataract is an opacification or cloudiness of the eye's crystalline lens due to aging, disease, or trauma that typically prevents light from forming a clear image on the retina. If visual loss is significant, surgical removal of the lens may be warranted, with lost optical power usually replaced with a plastic intraocular lens. Owing to the high prevalence of cataracts, cataract extraction is the most common eye surgery. Rest after surgery is recommended.[8]

Glaucoma surgery

Main article: Glaucoma surgery

Glaucoma is a group of diseases affecting the optic nerve that results in vision loss and is frequently characterized by raised intraocular pressure. Many types of glaucoma surgery exist, and variations or combinations of those types can facilitate the escape of excess aqueous humor from the eye to lower intraocular pressure, and a few that lower it by decreasing the production of aqueous humor.


Canaloplasty is an advanced, nonpenetrating procedure designed to enhance drainage through the eye's natural drainage system to provide sustained reduction of intraocular pressure. Canaloplasty uses microcatheter technology in a simple and minimally invasive procedure. To perform a canaloplasty, an ophthalmologist creates a tiny incision to gain access to a canal in the eye. A microcatheter circumnavigates the canal around the iris, enlarging the main drainage channel and its smaller collector channels through the injection of a sterile, gel-like material called viscoelastic.[clarification needed] The catheter is then removed and a suture is placed within the canal and tightened.[clarification needed] By opening up the canal, the pressure inside the eye can be reduced.[clarification needed][9][10][11][12]

Refractive surgery

Main article: Refractive surgery

Refractive surgery aims to correct errors of refraction in the eye, reducing or eliminating the need for corrective lenses.

Corneal surgery

Corneal surgery includes most refractive surgery, as well as:

Vitreoretinal surgery


Vitreoretinal surgery includes:

Eye muscle surgery

Isolating the inferior rectus muscle
Disinserting the medial rectus muscle, after placing vicryl suture

Main article: Strabismus surgery

With about 1.2 million procedures each year, extraocular muscle surgery is the third-most common eye surgery in the United States. [1] Archived 2016-08-18 at the Wayback Machine

Oculoplastic surgery

Main article: Oculoplastics

Oculoplastic surgery, or oculoplastics, is the subspecialty of ophthalmology that deals with the reconstruction of the eye and associated structures. Oculoplastic surgeons perform procedures such as the repair of droopy eyelids (blepharoplasty),[30] repair of tear duct obstructions, orbital fracture repairs, removal of tumors in and around the eyes, and facial rejuvenation procedures including laser skin resurfacing, eye lifts, brow lifts, and even facelifts. Common procedures are:

Eyelid surgery

Orbital surgery

Other oculoplastic surgery

Surgery involving the lacrimal apparatus

Eye removal

Other surgery

Many of these described procedures are historical and are not recommended due to a risk of complications. Particularly, these include operations done on ciliary body in an attempt to control glaucoma, since highly safer surgeries for glaucoma, including lasers, nonpenetrating surgery, guarded filtration surgery, and seton valve implants have been invented.


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