Who needs vitrectomy?

This surgical technique is used to treat many eye problems, particularly retinal detachment, diabetic eye disease, epiretinal membranes, macular holes, some forms of macular degeneration, vitreous haemorrhage and floaters.

How is the surgery done?

Vitrectomy involves removing the vitreous gel (“jelly”) of the eye, using special instruments inserted through little holes that are made in the white of the eye. Removing the vitreous gives access to the retina so that various treatments can be used to treat retinal diseases, e.g. removal of membranes, removal of blood, sealing of holes or tears. Thus vitrectomy forms a part of many operations for retinal diseases. It is not necessary to remove the eye to do this operation. Afterwards the holes in the eye are sealed and the eye looks completely normal. The jelly of the eye is not necessary for normal functioning of the eye, and it is actually 99% water.

How successful is the surgery?

For retinal problems this depends upon the condition which is being treated. If the operation is being carried out for floaters, or just to remove blood from the vitreous of an otherwise normal eye, then normal vision will be achieved in over 90% of patients. Because the vitreous cannot, be entirely removed, some mild floaters may persist.

What are the risks of vitrectomy surgery?

There is a risk of cataract formation or deterioration if present already, particularly in older people. The pressure in the eye may be temporarily increased, this can be treated with drops. Serious bleeding into the eye, or infection, can occur and cause marked visual loss, but these complications are extremely rare.

What type of anaesthetic is used?

Most vitrectomy surgery in the U.K. is carried out under general anaesthetic because these procedures can be lengthy. Local anaesthetic can be used if there are health problems or because of patient preference.

How long is the hospital stay?

Often there is a hospital stay of one or two nights, depending upon the underlying condition of the eye. Day surgery may be used for more straightforward cases.

How long is the recovery period?

It usually takes about 6-8 weeks for the eye to settle down, although many people resume normal activities long before that.

What are the do’s and don’ts after surgery?

No heavy exercise in any way should be undertaken, for a few weeks. After some vitrectomy procedures it is forbidden to fly, and you should ask your doctor whether and when you may fly again.

What can I expect after the surgery?

Your eye will be red, gritty, watering. Often you will get drops that may affect the vision for some time. Blurred vision is therefore to expected.