What is an Iridectomy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Iridectomy is a surgery done on the eye, which in most cases is used to treat the condition called closed angle glaucoma. This is often a sudden onset condition in one eye where part of the iris blocks exit of fluid from the eye. It may also occur on an occasional basis, instead of being suddenly, quite painfully, present. Other reasons an iridectomy may be performed include if there is a tumor on the iris. As suggested by the name, iridectomy removes part of the iris, or what people might think of as the eye color part of the eye, and usually the amount removed is extremely small.

The standard method for performing an iridectomy is to surgically remove this tiny piece of tissue from the iris with scalpels. Given the area of the eye that requires surgery, this is typically done under general anesthesia in a hospital or a surgical center. For some people, this surgery will be a same day procedure, and they’ll go home after anesthesia recovery. Other times people might need an extra day in the hospital to recover, and most people reach full recovery in a few weeks.

There are several variations on the iridectomy. Increasingly, doctors have turned away from the scalpel and instead are using lasers to remove part of the iris. This may be called an iridotomy or a laser assisted iridectomy.


In the iridotomy, which does not require general anesthesia, a laser tool removes part of the iris by burning. Recovery time is quicker, but the disadvantage of this procedure is that it may need to be repeated several times. Some suggest the laser iridotomy is more appropriate for people who have intermittent attacks of closed angle glaucoma, and that it is less useful in people suffering a sudden acute attack of the condition.

With eye conditions like acute closed angle glaucoma, there may not be a lot of time to plan ahead for an iridectomy or iridotomy. When fluid pressure builds in the eye suddenly, this can be extremely painful, and create other symptoms like nausea, aching head, impaired vision, and unusual dilation of the pupil. Doctors usually view this condition as medically urgent, because without quick intervention, retinal veins can become blocked. Though medication may be used briefly to treat rising intraocular pressure, surgery of some form is typically scheduled within a few days of symptom presentation.

Most patients want to know outcome of surgery and this may vary based on each physician. Many people have full sight after an iridectomy, and a lower percentage might have some sight impairment. As with all eye surgeries, complications can arise including infection, damage to the cornea, or greater risk for cataracts. These are usually lower risk as compared to allowing cancer of the eye or closed angle glaucoma to persist.


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