Eye Surgery: Anesthesia

Anesthesia is typically provided with local anesthesia, not general anesthesia. This local anesthesia can be given in a variety of methods which may include an injection beside the eye called peribulbar or retrobulbar block. Some patients receive only eye drops to numb the eye, this is called topical anesthesia. The decision on which technique to use is guided by the nature of your eye surgery and is decided by your surgeon. The anesthesiologist may discuss the choice after reviewing your medical status.

Peribulbar and retrobulbar blocks provide freezing of both sensation and movement of the eye. The most common feeling experienced when getting this injection is pressure around the eye. While not common, complications from this injection do exist. These can include:

  • Damage to eye itself. This can threaten vision and lead to further surgery.
  • Damage to muscles that move the eye, leading to double vision. This may improve on its own but may last and require surgical correction.
  • Bleeding around the eye. This can simply cause a “black eye” which does not affect vision but does take time to diminish. Bleeding can also occur behind the eye, possibly leading to delay of your eye surgery and surgical decompression to relieve pressure.

Even rarer complications can include:

  • Damage to the optic nerve, threatening vision;
  • Decreased heart rate, requiring medical treatment;
  • Loss of consciousness, generally less than one hour, which may require supportive care.

All care is taken to avoid complications. One safeguard is your feedback during the injection itself. While sedation for the injection can be given, it may reduce this safeguard.

Your anesthesiologist will be available to discuss and answer any questions you may have.