DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Lens Implants and Diving

My ophthalmologist has scheduled me for cataract surgery next week. The surgery will include lens implants. I have scheduled a dive vacation three months from now and am curious to know if it is OK to dive after lens implant surgery. My ophthalmologist doesn't think it will be a problem, but he admits he is not trained in dive medicine.

Intraocular lens implantation is a commonly performed surgical procedure for cataracts and refractive surgery. It generally involves replacing the natural crystalline lens of your eye with a flexible plastic lens; the procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. It involves the placement of the lens through a small incision on the surface of the eye; the incision is then sealed without a suture. Patients generally achieve full recovery within two to three weeks, but they should consult their physicians before participating in any strenuous physical exercise and activities that may increase blood pressure. Complications are rare but can involve infection, inflammation, loosening of the lens and visual disturbances (e.g., nighttime halos).

Scuba diving after lens implant surgery should not be a problem provided you allow enough time for the incision to heal. The healthy eye is filled with a non-compressible fluid (aqueous and vitreous humors), so the changing pressures experienced during a dive are evenly distributed and pose no particular threat.

There have been no controlled studies that specifically address the wait time required before returning to diving after such a procedure, so your best course of action is to play it safe. Wait a minimum of two months and then consult your treating physician to review your recovery before returning to diving.
John U. Lee, MSDT, CHT
DAN medical information specialist