Purpose: To evaluate the surgical experiences and patient preference with 3 local anesthesia techniques for small incision cataract surgery.
Setting: Department of Ophthalmology, Hjørring Hospital, Denmark.
Methods: This prospective, randomized study included 66 patients having simultaneous bilateral cataract surgery. There were 3 test groups, each containing 2 of the following local anesthesia techniques: retro/peribulbar (RBA), sub-Tenon's (STA), or topical (TA). Each patient served as his or her own control. No medical sedation was used. Patient response to each anesthesia technique was evaluated by the surgeon based on surgical difficulties, a nurse using hand-holding tension and verbal interaction, and a visual analog pain score. Patients were also asked which of the 2 techniques they preferred and their reasons.
Results: No local anesthesia techniques interfered with surgery. The order of a positive pain/discomfort response during surgery was TA > STA > RBA. Significantly more pain occurred with application of RBA than with STA or TA. No postoperative pain was recorded with any method. Fifty-six percent of patients said they preferred 1 technique over the other; 16% of patients having STA would not do so again, 19% would not have TA again, and 40% would not have RBA again. The main reasons for preferring STA and TA were fear of or pain from a retrobulbar injection. The main reasons for preferring RBA were less awareness, anxiety, and surgical pain. Immediate visual recovery seemed to be of minor importance in patients' choice of an anesthesia technique.
Conclusion: Although less discomfort/pain occurred during surgery with RBA, patients preferred STA and TA primarily because of the inconvenience or pain of the retrobulbar injection. Although medical sedation was not used in this study, the pain/discomfort ratio from surgery was not greater than in studies using intravenous sedation, indicating that the use of medical sedation should be re-evaluated.