Retinal detachment surgery
This page will give you information about retinal detachment surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a retinal detachment?
The retina is the inner layer at the back of your eye. The retina captures the light coming into your eye and sends this information to your brain.
Sometimes the retina can peel off (detach), causing your vision to be blurred or a shadow to develop in your vision.
What are the benefits of surgery?
The aim is to prevent your vision from getting worse.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Sometimes the tear or hole can be treated without any surgery, using a laser or by freezing treatment.
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 about 90 minutes.
Your surgeon can repair any tears or holes using a laser or by freezing treatment.
Retinal detachment surgery can involve the following techniques.
- Removing the jelly part of your eye and replacing it with air, gas or silicone oil to help keep the retina in place (vitrectomy).
- Stitching a small piece of silicone rubber (scleral buckle) onto the surface of your eye to press the wall of your eye inwards and keep the retina in place.
- Injecting a bubble of gas into your eye to float the retina back into place, and the following day using freezing treatment or a laser to fix the position (pneumatic retinopexy).
How can I prepare myself for the operation?
Keeping in the same position
Before the operation your surgeon may ask you to keep in a certain position such as lying flat on one side. This may help to prevent more of the fluid from collecting under the retina and making the problem worse.
If the operation is performed under a local anaesthetic, you will need to lie still and flat during the operation. If you cannot lie still and flat, let your surgeon know.
Your face will be covered with a cloth to allow your surgeon to work on a clean surface. Air will be blown gently towards your nose. If you are claustrophobic (afraid of being in small spaces), let your surgeon know.
If you smoke, stopping smoking will improve your long-term health.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.
If you have not had the coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine, you may be at an increased risk of serious illness related to Covid-19 while you recover. Speak to your doctor or healthcare team if you would like to have the vaccine.
What complications can happen?
General complications of any operation
- allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
- chest infection
Specific complications of this operation
- heavy bleeding inside your eye
- reduced vision
- raised pressure in your eye
- the retina may become detached again
- development of cataract
- double vision
- inflammation in your other eye
Consequences of this procedure
How soon will I recover?
You are expected to go home the same day.
Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. It is important to keep still for the first few days. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Do not swim or lift anything heavy until you have checked with your surgeon.
Most people make a good recovery.
Your surgeon will tell you if new glasses will improve your vision.
A retinal detachment is a common problem where the inner layer at the back of your eye peels off. Retinal detachment surgery should prevent your vision from getting worse.IMPORTANT INFORMATION
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Last reviewed: September 2022