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HealthSheets™

Having a Vitrectomy

Three-quarter view of cross-sectioned eye showing vitreous.A vitrectomy is a type of eye surgery to treat problems with the retina and vitreous. The vitreous is a gel-like substance that fills the middle portion of your eye. During the surgery, your surgeon removes the vitreous and replaces it with another solution.

What to tell your health care provider

Before your surgery, tell your health care provider:

  • What medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen. It also includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. You may need to stop taking some medicines before the procedure, such as blood thinners and aspirin.

  • If you smoke. You may need to stop before your surgery. Smoking can delay healing. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help to stop smoking.

  • If you’ve had recent changes in your health. This includes an infection or fever.

  • If you are sensitive or allergic to anything. This includes medicines, latex, tape, and anesthetic medicines.

  • If you are pregnant. Also tell your healthcare provider if you think you may be pregnant.

Getting ready for your surgery

Make sure to:

  • Ask a family member or friend to take you home from the hospital

  • Make plans for some help at home while you recover

  • Follow all other instructions from your health care provider

  • Read the consent form and ask questions if something is not clear

  • Not eat or drink after midnight before your surgery

Tests before your surgery

Before your surgery, your doctor may look at your retina. Special tools are used to shine a light in your eye and look at your retina. You may need to have your eyes dilated for this eye exam. You also may need to have an ultrasound of your eye. This helps your doctor view the retina. An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images on a computer screen.

On the day of your surgery

Talk with your doctor about what to expect during your surgery. The details of the surgery may differ somewhat. A doctor specially trained in eye surgery (ophthalmologist) will do your operation. In general, you can expect the following:

  • You may have general anesthesia. This will cause you to sleep through the surgery. Or you may be awake during the surgery. You will receive a medicine to help you relax. You also may be given anesthetic eye drops and injections. This is to make sure you don’t feel anything.

  • Your surgeon will make an incision in the outer layer of your eye.

  • He or she will make a small cut in the white part of the eye (sclera).

  • Your doctor will remove the vitreous and any scar tissue or other material.

  • Your doctor will do other repairs to your eye as needed. For example, he or she might use a laser to fix a tear in your retina. In some cases, your doctor may inject a gas bubble into your eye. This is to help keep the retina in place.

  • Your doctor will replace the vitreous with another type of fluid. It may be replaced with silicone oil or saline.

  • Your doctor will close your incisions with stitches.

  • Your doctor will put an antibiotic ointment on your eye to help prevent infection.

  • Your eye will be covered with a patch.

After your surgery

You’ll likely be able to go home the same day. Have someone drive you home.

Recovering at home

Follow all of your doctor’s instructions about eye care. Your eye may be a little sore after the procedure. You can take over-the-counter pain medicine as approved by your healthcare provider. You may need to use eye drops with antibiotics. This is to help prevent infection. You may need to wear an eye patch for a day or so.

If you had a gas bubble placed in your eye during your vitrectomy, you will need to follow specific instructions about positioning. You will also need to not travel on an airplane for a period of time after the surgery. Ask your doctor when it will be safe for you to fly again.

Follow-up care

You will need close follow-up with your doctor to see how well the surgery worked. You may have an appointment the day after the surgery. You may need follow-up surgery in the future to remove the replacement fluid from your eye.

Your vision may not be completely normal after your vitrectomy, especially if you had permanent damage to your retina. Ask your doctor how much improvement you can expect.

 

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the below:

  • Vision that gets worse

  • Pain or swelling around your eye that gets worse

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.