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What Is a Capsulectomy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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A capsulectomy is a procedure where a surgeon removes a capsule such as the tissues surrounding a joint or medical implant for the purpose of treating disease or preparing the patient for another procedure. Plastic surgeons, joint specialists, and ophthalmological surgeons all provide capsulectomies as part of their practices. Recovery time from the capsulectomy surgery varies, depending on the cause.

One reason to perform this procedure is when a patient has a problem with the lens of the eye. The lens capsule is a flexible membrane that can cloud over or develop other problems in patients with certain eye diseases. An eye surgeon can take out the capsule and replace it with an implant to improve a patient's vision or address an eye problem that may cause vision loss in the future. This procedure usually has a short recovery time, as the eyes are very robust and tend to recover quickly from surgeries.

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Another reason is to remove a capsule of scar tissue that forms around a medical implant like an implant used in breast augmentation. Some patients develop very rigid capsules as their bodies react to implants. While the body does not actively reject the implant with aggressive inflammation, the capsule can make it less useful or may cause it to look abnormal. In patients with breast implants, for example, the capsule can pull the breast out of shape or position. In the capsulectomy, the surgeon will carefully cut out the scar tissue and normalize the appearance of the tissue.

Patients may requires capsulectomies to prepare for joint replacements. The capsules that surround the joint can become chronically inflamed and scarred in patients with conditions like arthritis. In some joint replacement procedures the surgeon works around the existing capsule, while in other cases it may be necessary to cut it away, usually in a partial capsulectomy to remove the most inflamed components.

In a less invasive procedure called a capsulotomy, the surgeon will cut the capsule open to release tension and stress in the tissue, but will not remove it. This can resolve tightness and inflammation without the long recovery time patients associate with more invasive surgeries. If the capsulotomy does not work, the surgeon may recommend a capsulectomy or another procedure to resolve the problem. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of different treatment plans before giving their consent for a planned surgical procedure. It can be helpful to seek out a second opinion from another practitioner to learn more about the industry standards and practices.

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