Topical versus peribulbar anesthesia, without sedation, for clear corneal phacoemulsification

J Cataract Refract Surg. 1998 Mar;24(3):407-10. doi: 10.1016/s0886-3350(98)80332-5.


Purpose: To investigate patient and surgeon acceptance of topical anesthesia as an alternative to peribulbar anesthesia for clear corneal phacoemulsification.

Setting: Department of Ophthalmology, Whipps Cross Hospital, London, England.

Methods: All cataract surgery was performed using a temporal clear corneal approach, bimanual phacoemulsification, and in-the-bag intraocular lens implantation. The results of 51 patients having surgery under topical anesthesia (amethocaine) were compared with those of 30 patients having peribulbar anesthesia (50:50 mixture of lignocaine 2% and bupivacaine 0.5% with hyaluronidase). No sedation was used in either group. Pain perception on administration of the anesthetic, perioperatively (period immediately surrounding and during surgery), and postoperatively was assessed using a visual analog scale from 0 to 10 (0 = no pain: 10 = worst pain imaginable). A questionnaire was used to assess the degree of patient and surgeon satisfaction.

Results: Administration of topical amethocaine was significantly less painful than peribulbar bupivacaine (P = .03). Perioperative pain showed a trend toward being worse in the topical anesthesia group but did not reach statistical significance. There was no difference in the postoperative pain scores of the two groups. The surgical experience was rated very satisfactory by 67% in the topical group and 73% in the peribulbar group. The surgeons reported no difficulties or complications.

Conclusion: Topical anesthesia was safe and effective for clear corneal phacoemulsification and was well tolerated by patients. The slightly greater awareness of ocular discomfort in the topical group perioperatively did not alter patient satisfaction with the surgical experience when compared with the peribulbar group.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anesthesia, Local / methods*
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Bupivacaine / administration & dosage
  • Cornea / surgery*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lens Implantation, Intraocular
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Orbit
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / physiopathology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Phacoemulsification*
  • Tetracaine / administration & dosage


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Drug Combinations
  • Tetracaine
  • Lidocaine
  • Bupivacaine