What is strabismus surgery?

Strabismus Surgery
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Strabismus in children: Overview

Strabismus means that both eyes do not look at the same thing at the same time. One eye may look straight ahead while the other eye looks in another direction. It is sometimes called "cross-eye" or "walleye." Surgery can fix this problem.

Your child will be asleep during the surgery. The doctor makes a cut over the white part of the eye to find the muscles that need to be fixed. The cut is called an incision. Then the doctor loosens or tightens the eye muscles and uses small stitches to hold the muscles in their new position. These small stitches are called sutures.

Most children go home after they wake up. The sutures in the eye don't need to be removed. They will dissolve in a few weeks.

How can you care for your child after strabismus surgery?


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart their medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for your child's pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can give an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed eyedrops, use the drops exactly as directed. To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your child's head back, and pull the lower eyelid down with one finger. Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid. Ask your child to close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around. Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to your child's eyelashes or any other surface.


  • Your child can go back to their usual activities in a day or two.
  • For 1 week, do not let your child play sports with a ball or do any activity where their eye could get hit.
  • For 2 weeks, your child should not swim.

Other instructions

  • If your child's eye is sore and swollen the day after surgery, you can put ice or a cold pack on the eye for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel also works well.

How do you prepare for your child's strabismus surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that this surgery will make your child's eyes healthier. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

After your child's strabismus surgery: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of an eye infection, such as:
    • Pus or thick discharge coming from the eye.
    • Redness or swelling around the eye.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has new or worse eye pain.
  • Your child has vision changes.
  • It seems like there is something in your child's eye.
  • Light hurts your child's eye.
  • Your child's eye bleeds. A small amount of pink-colored tears is normal for a day or two after surgery.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after they take pain medicine.

Watch closely for any changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

After your child's strabismus surgery: Overview

Your child had surgery to fix an eye problem called strabismus. The doctor loosened or tightened eye muscles and used small stitches to hold the muscles in their new position.

On the first day after surgery, you may notice some pink or reddish tears coming from your child's eye. The eye may be red for a week or more after surgery.

Your child may have some mild pain and swelling around the eye. But the pain and swelling should go away after a few days. Your child should be able to do most of their usual activities in a day or two. Make sure that your child goes to all follow-up visits so the doctor can be sure that the surgery fixed the eye.

What happens on the day of your child's strabismus surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the surgery may be canceled. If the doctor told you to have your child take their medicines on the day of surgery, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower before you come in. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds them of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by an anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 1 hour.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery room staff will monitor their condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home after they wake up.
  • In some cases, the doctor uses a type of suture that can be adjusted. This lets the doctor fine-tune how the eye lines up. If this is done, the doctor will put a drop of anesthetic on the eye.

Strabismus Surgery

Strabismus surgery

Surgery to treat strabismus changes the position of the eye muscles to adjust the position of the eye. After surgery, both eyes will be able to focus on the same point at the same time.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.