A vitrectomy is a form of eye surgery to remove the vitreous, a clear gel that fills the eye cavity. Working through a microscope the surgeon removes the vitreous with a thin instrument that cuts and vacuums the gel and replaces it with saline solution. The surgery results in access to the retina, which helps with the removal of scar tissue, laser surgery for retinal detachments, the repair of macular holes and more. Eye surgeons may also perform a vitrectomy to repair damage to the retina or blood vessels that surround the retina, which commonly occur as a result of diabetic retinopathy or retinal vein occlusions.
The procedure for a vitrectomy involves making three tiny incision through the white part of the eye, or the sclera. A mechanized needle is inserted into the vitreous chamber to remove the vitreous fluid. Two other incisions are made to insert supplementary instruments. Debris, hemorrhage or scar tissue will be removed during the procedure. Once the surgery is completed, your doctor will fill the vitreous chamber with saline, a gas bubble or silicone oil depending on the nature of the problem. Sutures are often not necessary.
Patients are typically semi-conscious during a vitrectomy, but local anesthesia is administered. No hospital stay is required. You will have a patch and plastic shield covering your eye for the first night after surgery. Again, depending on the problem you may be asked to position your head in a certain way. Your doctor will schedule postoperative follow-up visits to check on your progress. Eye drops will also be prescribed to help minimize inflammation and prevent infection after your eye surgery.
If you have not yet had cataract surgery you should know that vitrectomy causes clouding of the eye’s natural lens resulting in cataract formation in virtually everyone. Most people will need cataract surgery within one year after having vitrectomy surgery.