Accumulating evidence suggests that refractive stabilization occurs rapidly following small incision cataract surgery. Nonetheless, many guidelines still suggest waiting four to 6 weeks before prescribing corrective lenses. This study was undertaken to supplement the existing literature regarding refractive stabilization, and evaluate multiple contributing factors that could dissuade clinicians from confidently correcting refractive error in the early post-operative course following routine cataract surgeries.
Adult patients undergoing phacoemulsification cataract surgery with uncomplicated surgeries and post-surgical courses at the Calgary Ophthalmology Centre (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) were included in this prospective observational case series. Exclusion criteria included known corneal dystrophies, infectious keratitis, complicated surgery or toric/multifocal IOLs. Data was collected at weekly intervals for a total of 6 weeks. Collected data included autorefraction, visual acuity, corneal pachymetry, and effective lens position.
One hundred six eyes of 104 patients were included in this study. Post-operative sphere, cylinder and spherical equivalent were not significantly different at any post-operative week compared with week six, and 80-86% of patients were within 0.5D of last follow-up spherical equivalent at any week. The secondary outcomes of central corneal thickness, effective lens position and visual acuity did, however, exhibit significant differences between early post-operative weeks and last follow-up values.
These data suggest that refractive error can be effectively measured and corrected as early as one-week post-operatively in the majority of patients, though other measures of post-operative stability including central corneal thickness, effective lens position and visual acuity can require up to 4 weeks to stabilize. Thus a conservative and pragmatic approach may be to wait until 4 weeks post-operatively prior to obtaining refractive correction following uncomplicated phacoemulsification cataract surgery.

© 2022. The Author(s).