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Cataract Surgery & Blood Thinners: What You Should Know

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Research has found that patients can be on blood thinner medication before and after their cataract surgery without any serious complications. Older patients and people with a history of heart problems might have a higher risk for side effects.

Cataract Surgery & Blood Thinners

For most patients, cataract surgery is a simple, easy, and uncomplicated procedure. As with any surgical procedure, there is always the chance of an issue, especially when it comes to elderly patients.

There is some concern about taking blood thinners before eye surgery. Researchers have studied whether antiplatelets or anticoagulants will affect the outcome of the surgery or otherwise interfere with the surgical process. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Family Practice noted that the risk of damage to the eye was not higher in patients who continued their blood thinner intake before their surgery.

Nerve Blocks

A study out of Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center found that patients taking their blood thinner medications could continue to do so when receiving eye nerve blocks for surgical procedures on their eyes. Nerve blocks, while less commonly used today, are administered via injection, and they prevent blinking and other involuntary responses, effectively keeping the eye as still as possible during surgery. Doctors had been concerned if people needing eye surgery who were taking blood thinners could receive the nerve block without discontinuing their medication.

The doctors at the eye surgery center took cataract surgery into account during their study. They noted that many of their patients needed the procedure while still taking blood thinners for other medical conditions, some of which were quite serious.

The study, consisting of over 11,000 patients, found that “nerve blocks are incredibly safe” when administered to patients taking blood thinners.

Cataract Surgery
Cataract eye surgery is a very common and medically necessary procedure to remove and replace the eye’s natural lens when the vision has been clouded by a cataract. We offer laser-assisted cataract surgery and lifestyle lenses as options for our patients.
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Potential Risks

There was a rare complication found in 0.018 percent of cases, which was a retrobulbar hematoma (bleeding behind the eye). While the development of retrobulbar hematoma occurs at a rate of about 1 to 3 percent in the general population, the incidence of this happening during cataract surgery due to blood thinners being present was less than 100 times that rate.

While being on blood thinners during cataract surgery is typically very safe, the chances of any issues (either during or after surgery) rise with the age of the patient.

Half of people who turn 80 years old will have developed cataracts, meaning cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed on older people. Many of these people might be on blood thinners to help with other medical problems, as blood thinners can be safely prescribed to people into their 90s. This might contribute to the incidence of any problems with the interaction of blood thinners and nerve blocks.

Overall, blood thinners do not impede cataract surgery. The risks are relatively small, but an elderly patient should talk to their doctor about the likelihood of complications.

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