We asked Alex Shortt about cataract surgery risks.
Interviewer: Every procedure has risks. What are the specific risks involved in cataract surgery?
Alex Shortt: It is important that your surgeon sits down with you face to face and explains the risks of cataract surgery, or this lens exchange surgery. Recently the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, which is our regulatory college which gives us our qualification as an ophthalmic surgeon, have gotten together a working group.
That’s really helpful, both for patients, but also for us surgeons. They have gone through the risks of all these procedures, and have written a patient guide, and also a set of guidelines for us as surgeons about what we should be telling patients are the risks. And we have to follow those guidelines, and they are absolutely explicit about what the risks are.
Loss of vision
And what those guidelines say is that the risk of losing significant vision, of ending up nearly blind in one of your eyes is one in 10,000 operations. That’s incredibly small. The risk of it happening in both eyes is in the region of one in 12 million. So a very small risk, and that’s a catastrophic outcome.
To put it in context for you, I’m likely to do about 10, maybe 20,000 cataract operations in my career. So what that means is that somewhere during my career, I will have one, or maybe two patients who lose a significant vision in one of their eyes. It hasn’t happened yet, but there is a potential for that to happen, and we have to be clear with patients on that.