Retina Surgery Guide to vitrectomy eye surgery

Published on August 2nd, 2012 | by Mark Erickson

Vitrectomy eye surgery for floaters and hemorrhage

Pars plana vitrectomy eye surgery is used to clean out eye floaters or vitreous hemorrhage inside the eye.

Click here to watch a vitrectomy animation

The vitreous is normally a clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye.  Various disease states can cause the vitreous to cloud, fill with blood or even harden so that light entering the eye will be misdirected and not reach the retina properly.

What is vitrectomy surgery?Vitreous hemorrhage

A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the vitreous in the central cavity of the eye so that vision can be corrected. It is beneficial in many eye conditions including diabetic eye disease (diabetic retinopathy), retinal detachments, macular hole, macular pucker and vitreous hemorrhage.  Also see “Human Eye” animation

How is a vitrectomy done?

The vitrectomy procedure is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. Rarely, an overnight stay in the hospital is required.

Local or general (while you are asleep) anesthesia may be used. The eye will be held opened using a special speculum and the eye that is not being operated on will be covered.

The procedure begins with Dr. Deupree making a small (less than 2mm) slit in the side of the eye and inserting an infusion line to maintain constant eye pressure.  See the animation.  Next, a microscopic cutting device is inserted which will aspirate (suck out) the vitreous fluid.Pars plana vitrectomy retina surgery

A microscopic light source is also inserted to illuminate the inside of the eye through the procedure. Additional instruments may also be used to perform other maneuvers such as cauterizing blood vessel leaks or removing scar tissue.

Dr. Deupree will look through a microscope while performing the procedure. He may also use special lenses to help see the anatomy of the eye.

Click here to see a “Human Eye” animation

After the vitreous is removed, the surgeon will refill the eye with a special saline solution that closely resembles the natural vitreous fluid in your eye. Tiny absorbable stitches are used to close the three small openings and antibiotic injections to prevent infection will be instilled at the end of the procedure.

Vitrectomy risks

Vitrectomies have been commonly performed and perfected for over 30 years. However, certain risks do exist. They include:

Gas bubble on retina after macular hole surgeryRetinal detachment during or after the procedure is the most common risk. Dr. Deupree is prepared if this happens and can repair the detachment by inserting gas that applies pressure on the retina before completing the case.

The retinal detachment will heal during the normal vitrectomy healing time, which is between 4 to 6 weeks. Normal restoration of vision can take several weeks. Physical activity will be restricted during this time to prevent complications.

Postoperative Instructions

Since vitrectomy is often performed along with other procedures, postoperative instructions may vary. Some general guidelines are provided; however, always consult with your surgeon for specific instructions.

  1. Begin using any anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops prescribed by your physician immediately after your eye patch has been removed.
  2. Wear the plastic eye shield (if recommended) when sleeping for the first 5-7 days following surgery. The shield should be worn for the first 3 days following surgery when showering.
  3. Avoid bending, stooping, lifting objects over 5 pounds, or any strenuous activity for one week (unless directed otherwise by your physician).
  4. Take Tylenol E.S. (if approved by your doctor) or gently apply ice compresses to the eye to relieve mild discomfort.
  5. Follow any special instructions given by your physician for head positioning (this is not necessary in all cases).

Related links:

Click here to watch a vitrectomy animation

Watch the “How vision works” animation

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About the Author

Mark Erickson is a certified ophthalmic technician and ophthalmic photographer. He is a technical writer in the eye care industry. Mark is also an ophthalmic medical illustrator. His works have been published on the covers of more than 60 eye care publications. Some of his clients include National Geographic, Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson, Transitions, Genentech and Allergan.



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