Vitreoretinal surgery does not refer to one specific type of surgery. It refers to any surgical procedure that treats eye problems involving the retina, macula, and vitreous fluid. These vision disorders include macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and diabetic retinopathy.
The retina is a tissue in the inner eye. It converts images that one sees into electric impulses that the brain can interpret. The macula is part of the retina that helps process central vision. Vitreous fluid fills the eyeball and helps it maintain its shape.
Vitreoretinal surgery can treat a detached retina, which happens due to a retinal tear. A retina may detach gradually or suddenly. Symptoms of retinal detachment may include flashes of light and spots that obstruct vision. Retinal detachment can occur due to an injury. It may also occur when the vitreous fluid pulls on the retina.
Eye surgery typically can correct a detached retina. An eye surgeon may use silicone oil or a bubble of gas to hold the retina in place. He can then use laser photocoagulation to attach the retina by sealing the blood vessels. A patient with a detached retina has a better chance of regaining lost vision if it is treated immediately.
This procedure also can be used to treat macular degeneration. Macular degeneration typically occurs as a result of damage to the macula. It can cause severe vision loss, especially in older adults.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, one type of this disease can be treated with vitreoretinal surgery. Specifically, the eye surgeon can use laser photocoagulation to seal any blood vessels that are leaking and damaging the eye. This can help preserve vision; however, the patient usually is left with a permanent dark spot in the field of vision.
An eye surgeon can also use surgery to treat eye problems relating to the vitreous fluid. A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the natural vitreous fluid of the eye and replaces it with a saline liquid. Vitrectomies may be performed due to the introduction of foreign matter into the eyeball, such as blood. Leaking blood vessels in the eyeball could be caused by diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels.
For a vitrectomy, the patient may be placed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will create three very small openings in the eyeball. These incisions are used to allow surgical instrument access to the eyeball. Following the eye surgery, the patient usually will need to apply antibiotic eye drops for a few weeks. Vitrectomies typically are highly successful in restoring or greatly improving a patient’s vision.
Any type of vitreoretinal surgery is a serious procedure. Before having surgery, the patient typically should discuss the possible risks with his eye surgeon. While risks do exist, vitreoretinal surgery might be the best option for some patient.