A vitrectomy is the removal of a gel-like fluid from the center of the eye called the vitreous humor. This fluid gives the eyeball its shape and plays an important role in vision.
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A vitrectomy may be done:
Conditions that may lead to need for vitrectomy include:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
Your doctor will give you a physical exam, including a thorough evaluation of the eye. Blood tests or an ultrasound may be done.
Local anesthesia is used to numb the eye and surrounding area.
Tiny incisions are made in the whites of the eyes. A small instrument is inserted through the incisions to remove the vitreous humor and any debris. The doctor will then be able to access other areas of the eye to complete any additional repairs.
When the procedure is complete, a gas bubble, saline solution, or silicone oil will be injected in the eye to take the place of the vitreous humor. The replacement will help the eye maintain its shape.
The length of the procedure will depend on other work that needs to be done. A vitrectomy itself takes about an hour.
Anesthesia will block pain during the procedure. Discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
You will be able to leave when you are alert and well enough to travel home.
Eyesight may be affected for a time as your eye heals.
Certain activities will need to be limited to avoid excess pressure on the eye like strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. Air travel may also be limited if a gas was used to fill the eye.
The eye will eventually refill the eye with vitreous humor. If gas was used, the gas bubble will eventually dissolve on its own as the vitreous humor moves in. If oil was used, it will need to be removed with another procedure.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right way.
Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Kim DY, Joe SG, et al. Acute-onset vitreous hemorrhage of unknown origin before vitrectomy: Causes and prognosis. J Ophthalmol. 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
Reeves SW, Kim T. How to perform an anterior vitrectomy. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/vitreous-hemorrhage-diagnosis-treatment-2?march-2007. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Vitrectomy. Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.eyeinstitute.co.nz/eye-surgery/vitrectomy.htm. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Vitrectomy surgery. Casey Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/services/casey-eye/clinical-services/specialty-services/retina-vitreous/vitrectomy-surgery.cfm. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Warrier SK, Jain R, et al. Sutureless vitrectomy. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2008;56(6):453-458.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 03/07/2016