- Canthoplasty or cat eye plastic surgery is a cosmetic surgery done to improve the shape of your eyes for a more youthful and attractive look
- It involves reshaping the lateral canthus or the outer corner of your eye where the lower and upper eyelid meet.
- A good candidate for cat eye surgery must be healthy and have realistic expectations about the results.
- Canthoplasty is performed in a clinic or your surgeon's office and can take about one to two hours to complete.
- Your doctor will provide post-op care instructions to help you care for the incision area and avoid complications.
- Canthoplasty may be performed alongside other eyelid surgery, such as canthopexy and blepharoplasty.
What is Cat Eye Surgery (Canthoplasty)?
Canthoplasty or cat eye surgery is a cosmetic eyelid surgery that reshapes your eyes for a more youthful and attractive look. It can also help you achieve almond-shaped eyes.
The procedure involves reshaping the lateral canthus. The lateral canthus is the eyes' outer corners, where the lower and upper eyelids meet to form a V-shape.
Cat eye surgery makes the canthus appear raised, larger, and brighter—just like a cat's eyes, as the name suggests. Some doctors may refer to the procedure as cat eye lift surgery.
What is Cat Eye Surgery For?
Not all canthoplasty patients aim for attractive eyes. The procedure can treat ectropion, a condition characterized by lower eyelids that are turned outwards.
People with ectropion are prone to eye infections and other vision complications.1 This is due to overexposure of the eye to dust, debris, and dry air.
Artificial tears can help manage the condition. But severe ectropion may require surgery such as canthoplasty to restore the integrity of the eyelids.
Canthoplasty should only be performed by a highly-skilled oculoplastic surgeon.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for Cat Eye Surgery?
During an initial consultation, your eye surgeon will examine you to ensure that a cat eye lift procedure is suitable for you.
Generally, you'll qualify for cat eye surgery if you:
- Have drooping or sagging eyelids due to age, genetics, or lifestyle
- You're in good physical health
- Have no pre-existing medical issues that may interfere with recovery
- Have adequate knowledge of the procedure and expected results
- You have realistic expectations
- Are not taking certain medications, such as blood thinners
You don’t qualify for cat eye surgery if:
- You have underlying health conditions that may affect healing
- You're taking blood thinners that may lead to excess bleeding
- You have unrealistic expectations
- You cannot follow the post-op care guidelines
Canthoplasty Procedure: What to Expect
Cat eye surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you'll go home immediately after surgery. It's primarily performed using local anesthesia and intravenous (IV) sedation to help you relax.3
If a more complex and invasive procedure is needed, your surgeon will use general anesthesia to make you sleep. The procedure takes two hours or less.
Before Surgery (Preparation)
Just like any surgery, preparation is key.
Your surgeon will instruct you to do the following:
- Stop taking blood-thinning medication such as ibuprofen (Advil), apixaban, edoxaban, Heparin, etc. They may cause over bleeding during surgery.
- Eat a light meal the night before surgery and don't eat or drink at least 6 hours before the surgery. This will help prevent the risk of aspiration (common during general anesthesia).4
- Take your essential medication, such as antihypertensives for blood pressure. This will help avoid complications such as high blood pressure during surgery.
- Avoid wearing makeup. Makeup contains chemicals and irritants, making it a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Rinse your face with only water and soap. Also, avoid applying lotion or face creams on the day of the surgery.
- Plan for reliable transportation to and from your surgeon's office. Your driving ability will be temporarily impaired after surgery.
- Have someone keep you company for a day or two after surgery to help in case of an emergency.
During Surgery (Steps)
Before cat eye surgery, your surgeon will evaluate your eyes again. Then, they’ll cut the lateral canthal tendon and reposition or tighten it to achieve the desired eye shape.
In this procedure, your surgeon will:
- Carefully make several incisions to detach the tendon
- Shorten and reposition the tendon to achieve the cat eye appearance
- Aim to hide the incision scar by cutting through the eye's natural crease
If your eyelids are just slightly sagging, your surgeon may recommend a less invasive procedure known as canthopexy.
Canthopexy doesn't require detaching the lateral canthal tendon.6 Instead, it involves the placement of sutures to tighten the eyelid. Sutures are thread-like stitches used to repair minor cuts.
After Surgery (Recovery)
Once the surgery is complete, your ophthalmologist will stitch up the incision and dress it to prevent infection.
Your surgeon may prescribe ointment, steroid eye drops, and artificial tears to help with any pain or discomfort after surgery.
You will also use an eye shield for a few days. This helps prevent dust and debris build-up, as well as any possible trauma.
How Much Does Cat Eye Surgery Cost?
According to a 2020 survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the average cost for cat eye surgery is about $4,120.2
This price may vary based on various factors, including:
- Your location
- Available facilities
- Surgeon's experience
Since a cat eye lift is an elective cosmetic procedure, your insurance won't cover it. However, you may be eligible for some coverage if it’s required to correct a medical problem such as chronic dry eyes.
Talk to your surgeon about pricing before committing to the surgery. Some surgeons may offer financing options like payment plans.
Cat Eye Surgery Aftercare
To ensure success in recovery, you must follow your doctor's post-op care guidelines, which may include:
- Resting your eyes. Take off from work or other commitments and keep your eyes rested.
- Using an icepack on your eyes during the early days after surgery to ease the swelling.
- Maintaining good eye hygiene. The wound is prone to infection if not cleaned properly. A 3% hydrogen peroxide and warm water mixture works. Use it three times a day.
- Avoid rubbing, squeezing, or touching your eyes. This may interfere with the healing wound or cause infection.
- Avoid wearing your contact lenses. Don't wear contact lenses for about two weeks to avoid too much strain on the healing tendons.
- Avoiding medication such as ibuprofen. These are blood thinners and may increase bleeding.
- Wearing protective eye shields. When outdoors or sleeping, wear protective eyeshields to avoid accidental injury or exposure to dust, pollen, and other irritants.
- Attending follow-up visits. Follow up-visits ensure close monitoring of the healing process.
- Wearing sunscreen. Direct sunlight can affect the healing process and may cause enlargement or hyperpigmentation of your scar. Using sunscreen during recovery will prevent scar complications.
How Long Does it Take to Recover From Canthoplasty?
Most people's recovery after cat eye surgery may take about two to three weeks. Full recovery may take several more weeks.
Recovery involves three stages: bruising, swelling, and scar formation. The scars will disappear with time.
In addition, changes in your eye's appearance will become apparent after a few months.
Possible Risks and Side Effects
Patients who undergo canthoplasty may experience the following risks and side effects:
- Blood clots
- Loose stitches
- Excess tearing
- Dry eyes
- Mild to moderate pain
- Vision changes
- Excessive bleeding
- Poor alignment of the outer canthus8
- Conjunctival exposure
- Infections around the site of surgery
You may also experience drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting from the anesthetics and sedatives used during surgery.7
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice severe pain, shortness of breath, chest pains, bleeding, or potential infection after surgery.
Canthoplasty vs. Other Treatments
Other eyelid treatments exist and may be confused with canthoplasty. These include blepharoplasty and canthopexy.
Blepharoplasty can be performed alongside canthoplasty to improve results. It can also improve the results of other cosmetic surgeries, such as facelifts and brow lifts.
Canthopexy is a simpler, less invasive form of canthoplasty for mild eyelid defects.
It doesn't require your surgeon to detach and shorten the lateral canthal tendon, as in the case of cat eye surgery. Instead, they will place sutures to tighten the eyelid.
Canthopexy can also be done together with canthoplasty or blepharoplasty to improve results. Canthopexy alone, though, cannot achieve the slanted eye shape (cat eye shape).
In this article