Can I Wear Contact Lenses During Surgery and Anesthesia?

| March 23, 2013 | 4 Comments

Just the other day I had a patient ask me, “Can I wear my contact lenses during surgery and general anesthesia?”

I smiled and asked her to kindly remove them for the procedure. She had come prepared with her contact lens case and solution but felt “very blind” without her contacts. I explained that we require contacts be removed to protect her eyes from injury during the surgery. It’s also possible for a contact lens to be lost during surgery.

When a person is under general anesthesia, it is not uncommon for their eyes to rest “partially open” while unconscious. That person is no longer able to protect their cornea (and the rest of their eye) from injury. To protect from corneal abrasions and other eye injuries, anesthesiologists routinely tape the eyes shut during general anesthesia. Some may also place eye drops prior to taping the eyes.

You can see now (pun intended) why leaving contact lenses in place just isn’t a great idea.

My patient understood why we require this small inconvenience, and was very grateful that anesthesiologists are thinking about the safety of the “whole patient” while under our care.

She didn’t need to remove them until right before surgery and she could have them back once she was “awake enough to put them back in” after surgery.


If you are going to have a general anesthetic, you will likely be asked to remove your contact lenses.

Consider the following two options:

1. If you also have glasses, remove your contact lenses at home and come to the hospital/ surgery center with your glasses. You can then hand off your glasses to your family member when ready to go to the operating room (or have them stored with your belongings). This will ensure your contacts are not misplaced or damaged during this period.

2. If you are going to wear your contacts to the medical facility, be sure to bring your contact case and solution with you. Most centers will allow you to wear your contacts until just before you are ready to head into the operating theater.

(Besides, you will have forms to sign, such as informed consent, and will need to be able to read these medical documents).


I hope this post has provided some insight on this topic. Now it’s your turn.

Please share your questions and experiences in the comments below.

What General Anesthesia Side Effect have you experienced, if any?

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Category: Anesthesia Topics, Day of surgery

Comments (4)

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  1. Ken Carlton says:

    I’m wearing a contact lens right now in one eye in order to protect my cornea from recurrent cornea erosion. In this situation, should I keep my contact lens in during surgery (anterior hip replacement)?

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Ken,

      Not sure if I’m replying to you in time, but the best thing to do is mention it to your anesthesiologist. They will make the final call.

      Hope your surgery and anesthesia goes great.

      Dr. Dave

  2. rochelle says:

    i wore my contacts during a 4 hour spinal surgery,,with no problem..

    • David Draghinas says:

      Glad to hear everything went well for you, Rochelle. That does not mean, however, there was no risk leaving the contacts in place.

      Dr Dave

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