Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that retina specialists recommend in a wide range of scenarios. In a vitrectomy, the fluid filling the interior of the eye is removed and air, a gas bubble, or silicone oil is injected to replace it and help flatten the retina. This helps the surgeon reach the center of the eye more easily to repair retinal damage. It also makes it possible for the surgeon to excise any blood, tissue, or other obstruction that is stuck in the eye.
What Does a Vitrectomy Treat?
Whenever possible, the retina specialists of Retina Associates of Kansas City pursue conservative treatment options before recommending surgery. However, if you have one of the following conditions, a vitrectomy may be recommended:
- Retinal detachment – a condition in which the retina peels off the back wall of the eye
- Vitreous hemorrhage – a condition in which bleeding occurs in the eye and seeps into the vitreous humor
- Uveitis – a group of infectious conditions that affect the middle portion of the eye
- Macular holes – small breaks in the central portion of the retina (known as the macula)
- Macular pucker – a condition in which the macular wrinkles and puckers
- Eye injuries or the presence of foreign objects inside the eye
- Complications following cataract surgery
How is a Vitrectomy Performed?
Before beginning the vitrectomy, your retina surgeon will prep your eyes with anesthesia to keep them numb so that you won’t feel anything during the procedure. They will also administer a light sedative. In some cases, patients may receive general anesthesia to stay unconscious during the procedure, but this often comes with more risks and side effects and is not always recommended.
Once ready, the surgeon positions the eyelids so that they remain open for the entire procedure. Using exceptionally delicate instruments, the doctor makes an incision through the first layer of eye tissue and into the sclera (the white part of the eye). They then insert their instruments and a fiber-optic light through the incision.
The vitreous gel is removed through the incision so that the doctor can address whatever damage or obstruction needs to be repaired. The vitreous gel is then replaced with another substance, such as air, a gas bubble, or silicone oil. Over time, the injected material will be absorbed and replaced by body fluid. If silicone oil is used, it may be surgically removed later. During the vitrectomy, your surgeon may also perform other procedures that are needed to repair the retinal tissue (e.g. photocoagulation laser surgery).
After the damage has been repaired, the surgeon removes their instruments and fiber-optic light. In some cases, the incision may need to be stitched, but this is typically unnecessary. To prevent infection, the surgeon will apply anti-biotic medication to your eye and cover it with an eye patch.
Is a Vitrectomy a Serious Procedure?
It’s common and understandable for patients to feel anxious about undergoing eye surgery. In many cases, vitrectomies are considered to be relatively simple procedures. However, this depends on the severity of the condition being treated.
Most vitrectomy patients are treated on an outpatient basis, meaning they go home on the same day of the procedure. Furthermore, most patients report experiencing little to no pain or discomfort during the vitrectomy. For most vitrectomies, the recovery period lasts only a few days. However, if you have more extensive surgery done on your eye during your vitrectomy, you may need to wait a few weeks before returning to your regular activities.
What to Expect After Vitrectomy Surgery
It may take several months after surgery for your vision to improve. You may also need a second surgery to improve the results. Complications afterward are rare. According to the American Society of Retina Specialists, vitrectomies have a success rate of over 90% for many conditions. However, some patients may not be able to recover all of their lost vision.
Vitrectomy Surgery in Kansas and Missouri
The retina surgeons of Retina Associates of Kansas City have extensive training and experience in performing vitrectomy surgeries for the full range of retinal and macular conditions. With locations throughout Kansas and Missouri, we’re easily accessible to patients from Kansas City, Topeka, and other surrounding areas.