Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat problems of the eye’s vitreous (the clear gel that fills the eye) or retina (the tissue located at the back of the eye that translates light into visual impulses for the brain). During a vitrectomy, your ophthalmologist will remove all or a portion of the vitreous gel. It is replaced with either saline, a gas bubble, or silicone oil.
Diseases or conditions for which a vitrectomy may be performed include:
- Retinal Tear or Detachment
- Macular Hole
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Endophthalmitis (Eye Infection)
- Complications from Cataract Surgery
- Eye Injury
- Vitreous Hemorrhage (Blood in the Eye)
- Epiretinal Membrane (Macular Pucker)
- Scar Tissue on the Retina
How Is a Vitrectomy Performed?
Vitrectomy is typically performed as an outpatient surgery with local anesthesia.
During the surgery, your retina specialist will create a small incision in the white of the eye and then use a microscope to see inside. From there, your retina specialist may use a variety of specialized micro-surgical instruments to perform one or more of the following:
- Remove cloudy vitreous
- Remove scar tissue from the retina
- Correct problems associated with cataract surgery
- Remove foreign objects
- Conduct laser surgery to repair the retina
- Reposition the retina in its proper place against the back of the eye
- Placement of a bubble of air, gas, or silicone oil in the eye to help keep the retina in its proper position to facilitate reattachment
Recovery From a Vitrectomy
When the surgery is complete, you will be monitored as you recover from anesthesia, and then be allowed to go home. Your retina specialist may prescribe medications to help relieve pain, along with special eye drops that must be used for up to four weeks. You will also be required to wear a patch on your eye for a day to protect it, and your retina specialist will let you know when you can safely return to normal activity.
If you had a bubble placed in your eye during the vitrectomy, you will be instructed to keep your head in a facedown or side-facing position for a certain period of time to allow the bubble to maintain pressure on the retina. How long you will need to remain in this position will depend on your particular circumstances. The gas bubbles are formulated to be absorbed by the body and replaced with the eye’s natural fluid over specified periods of time. Silicone oil is not absorbed and will maintain its support until it is removed. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding what position to maintain and for how long as it is critical to your recovery.
You should also know that you cannot fly in an airplane until the gas bubble is gone, as a rapid altitude change can affect the size of the bubble and create numerous issues.
Are There Any Risks With a Vitrectomy?
As with any surgery, there are risks to having a vitrectomy. They include:
- Decreased Vision
- Torn or Detached Retina
In addition, patients have an elevated risk of getting a cataract following a vitrectomy. For those who have had cataract surgery, a vitrectomy will not harm your standard or premium intraocular lens.
Other Treatment Options
In terms of repairing a detached retina, there are other surgical options available at the Dean McGee Eye Institute. These include:
Your surgeon can discuss with you which is the best option in your situation.
Vitrectomy at the Dean McGee Eye Institute
As the only nationally-ranked eye institute in the state, the Dean McGee Eye Institute has been combining advanced surgical technology, precise technique, and expert knowledge to provide the best in patient care for 45 years.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the conditions for which a vitrectomy 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 would be happy to help protect your vision.