Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Glaucoma surgery (trabeculectomy)

3-minute read

This page will give you information about glaucoma surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is glaucoma?

The optic nerve carries images from the retina (light-sensitive layer at the back of your eye) to your brain, allowing you to see.

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve where it leaves your eye. Glaucoma can cause loss of vision.

Glaucoma can be caused by an increase in pressure in your eye.

Illustration showing a cross section of an eye.
Cross-section of the eye.

Sometimes the optic nerve can be damaged, even though the pressure in your eye is within the normal range.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to lower the pressure in your eye to reduce the risk of further damage to the optic nerve.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

You can use eye drops to lower the pressure.

Laser treatment may be suitable for you but is often less effective than surgery.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible, including a general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic that is injected around your eye to numb it.

The operation usually takes 45 to 75 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a small draining hole in the lining of the white of your eye. The fluid will drain out into a space in the outer lining of your eye and collect just under your eyelid.

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection

Specific early complications

  • heavy bleeding inside your eye during surgery
  • bleeding at the front of your eye which makes vision worse
  • inflammation in your other eye
  • too much fluid draining
  • sharp rise in eye pressure

Specific late complications

  • developing a cataract
  • reduced vision over time
  • failure of the operation

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after a few hours.

Your surgeon will need to check your eye the day after the operation. They will see you several times in clinic during the first few weeks and may perform minor adjustments.

Most people will need about 2 weeks off work.

Do not swim, lift anything heavy or bend so your head is below your waist until you have checked with your surgeon.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people make a good recovery from the operation, with their glaucoma under better control.

Summary

Glaucoma is a common problem, causing damage to the optic nerve where it leaves your eye. If eye drops do not help enough, glaucoma surgery can be performed to reduce the risk of further damage to the optic nerve.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) | Glaucoma Australia

First line treatment for glaucoma is usually in the form of eye drops or laser therapy. When these two options are no longer sufficient or are not suitable,...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Glaucoma Treatments | Glaucoma Australia

Although there is no cure for glaucoma, most people are able to manage their condition successfully with the use of eye drops, laser treatment, surgery or a...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Types of Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

There are many different types of glaucoma. However, most glaucomas can be divided into two categories:...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Cataracts in Patients with Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

What impact does development of cataracts have on someone already living with glaucoma?...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Managing Glaucoma in Regional & Remote Australia | Glaucoma Australia

It takes a collaborative effort, supported by strong protocols, to provide the gold standard of glaucoma care that patients living in regional and remote...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Glaucoma Treatment in Pregnancy | Glaucoma Australia

All glaucoma patients who need treatment with drops, need to consider, with their ophthalmologist, the possible benefits and potential side effects of any...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Laser Treatment | Glaucoma Australia

There are many different kinds of laser used in ophthalmology and specifically in glaucoma. A laser is amplified light energy which can be targeted to...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Testing For Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

Left untreated glaucoma can cause irreversible vision loss, however early detection and adherence to treatment can halt or significantly slow its...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Eye Drops and Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

Eye drops, used in the treatment of glaucoma work by reducing the intraocular pressure (IOP) within your eyes. Increased eye pressure is a major risk factor...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Living With Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

Living With Glaucoma Although a diagnosis of glaucoma is not life threatening, it can bring about lifestyle changes and fears for the future

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo