Purpose: To compare the subjective visual experiences of patients during phacoemulsification and intraocular lens (IOL) implantation using regional and topical anaesthesia.
Design: A prospective, cohort, questionnaire-based study.
Methods: The study cohort consisted of 247 patients without pre-existing ocular pathology who underwent routine phacoemulsification and IOL implantation. The mean age of the subjects was 75.4 +/- 9.4 years and 34.5% of them had a history of cataract surgery. Three different methods of local anaesthesia were used: 66 (26.7%) of the patients were given topical anaesthesia (TA); 74 (30.0%) were given sub-Tenon's anaesthesia (SA), and 107(43.3%) were given peribulbar anaesthesia (PA). The patients were interviewed immediately after surgery by theatre staff using a standardized questionnaire that investigated their intraoperative visual experiences.
Results: There was no significant difference between the three methods of anaesthesia regarding light perception during the surgery. However, patients undergoing surgery under TA experienced brighter light intensity levels (78.3%) than those given SA (50.0%) and PA (55.7%) (p = 0.02). A total of 69.6% of subjects who received TA reported visual perception of colours during surgery, as opposed to 56.8% of SA recipients and 49.0% of PA recipients (p = 0.02). In addition, patients under TA were more aware of surgical instruments (26.1%) than those under SA (10.8%) and PA (15.9%) (p = 0.08). The vast majority of patients in all three groups found the visual experience to be non-frightening. There were no associations between intraoperative visual impression and age or sex. Although not statistically significant (p = 0.06), prior cataract surgery appeared to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with the visual experience.
Conclusion: Patients undergoing regional and topical anaesthesia experience a wide variety of visual sensations during surgery. The differences in visual impressions between the groups may reflect the varying degrees of optic nerve blockade that result from the different anaesthetics.