If someone asked you to label parts of your eye, how many do you think you could name? “Pupil” and “iris” are commonly known terms. Perhaps you are also familiar with “retina” and “cornea.” But do you know what all of these parts of the eye do? Each one is critical to the proper function of your eye and disturbance of any one of them can result in troubled vision. When eyeglasses or other treatments fail, you may need surgery to correct your vision problems. Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure used to improve conditions such as macular holes, retinal detachment, infections and complications related to cataract surgery.
Vitrectomy surgery involves the removal of some or all of the gel-like substance in your eye called the “vitreous.” As we age, the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the walls of the eye. This can occasionally result in the retina becoming detached from the back of the eye. Vitrectomy surgery replaces the vitreous with saline solution or with a bubble composed of gas or oil. This helps the eyeball hold its shape as well as allow injured portions of the eye to heal.
Vitrectomy is an outpatient procedure which can take anywhere from 1 to several hours to complete. Once you arrive for the procedure you will be given general or local anesthesia to numb the eye. During surgery your doctor will make tiny incisions into the white portion of your eyeball. This allows for small microscopes and surgical instruments to be inserted into the eye. Depending on your individual needs, the surgeon may repair damage to your retina, remove any foreign objects which should not be in the eye, remove cataracts or scar tissue and/or remove and replace vitreous.
After surgery you will be monitored while you recover from anesthesia. You will be prescribed medicine to help alleviate pain. Eye drops will also be given to you to use for up to 4 weeks after surgery. Your doctor will fit you with a protective eye patch to wear for a few days while your eye heals.
As with any surgical procedure, vitrectomy comes with risks. These include infection, torn retina, bleeding, reduced vision and glaucoma. It is also possible that you may develop a cataract in the affected eye. Cataracts are more likely to occur in vitrectomy patients over 50 years old. Vitrectomy procedures often improve vision or stop it from getting worse. You can discuss all of the risks and benefits of vitrectomy surgery with your ophthalmologist.
If you think you may have a condition which requires vitrectomy or other form of eye surgery, call and schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist. You should make routine eye exams part of your yearly health plan.