Retinal cryopexy, sometimes known as retinal cryotherapy, is a non-invasive procedure that utilizes intense cold to freeze portions of the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye critical to vision). The freezing damages the treated tissue to promote the formation of a scar. Such scars can be used to treat a number of retinal disorders including retinal tears and the proliferation of abnormal blood vessels as happens in age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

A significant advantage of using cryopexy is that it is applied externally and therefore does not require an incision. It can also treat larger areas as compared to laser surgery.

The Cryopexy Process

Cryopexy is administered with local anesthesia to prevent pain. During the process, your ophthalmologist will use an indirect ophthalmoscope to view the inside of your eye through the pupil while gently pushing on the outside of the eye with the small metal probe to find the exact place for treatment. Once the appropriate treatment location is found, your surgeon will activate the probe to deliver the freezing gas, which rapidly freezes the targeted tissue. This is followed by a swift thawing action that damages the targeted tissue. As the tissue heals, it forms a scar.

Recovery Time

Vision in the treated eye will be blurry immediately following surgery, and the eye will be red and swollen. If no other procedures are performed along with cryopexy, the eye may or may not need a patch or eye drops.

Full healing from cryopexy typically takes around 10–14 days. During this time, discomfort can be alleviated with medications and the use of a cold compress. Patients are advised to gently cleanse their eyelids every morning by using warm water and cotton balls or tissues.

Are There Any Risks with Cryopexy?

The greatest risk of retinal cryopexy is causing unintended damage to surrounding tissue. This risk is minimized through the careful placement of the probe to target only the necessary treatment area. Other complications, which are quite uncommon, may possibly include infection, perforation of the eye with the anesthetic needle, bleeding, double vision, and glaucoma.

Cryopexy at Dean McGee Eye Institute

The only nationally-ranked eye institute in the state, the Dean McGee Eye Institute has been at the forefront of providing superior patient care for 45 years with expert knowledge, precise technique, and advanced surgical technology.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the conditions for which a cryopexy may be a solution, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our vitreoretinal specialists by calling 405.271.1092 or 800.787.9014. We are here to help.