WHAT IS IT?
Vitrectomy is surgery to remove the vitreous gel inside the eye in order for an ophthalmologist to have access to the back of the eye where the retina is located. This is done in order to treat a number of problems, such as scar tissue on the retina or retinal detachment, vitreous hemorrhage, eye floaters, diabetic retinopathy, or holes in the macula.
Vitrectomy is most often performed on an outpatient basis, with local anesthesia. At the end of the surgery, an ophthalmologist sometimes injects an oil or gas bubble into the eye to gently hold the retina in place against the eye wall during recovery. Oil bubbles need to be removed once the eye is healed.
PREPARING: BEFORE THE SURGERY
Mobility is severely limited for some time after surgery (we’ll cover this in the next section), so it’s important to make sure that anything that might be needed – from blankets, pillows and clothing, to the tv remote, computer and phone – are where they can easily be gotten to. Doing laundry ahead of time, stocking up on groceries, medicine, and other necessities are also good ideas. Just in case something unexpected does come up, asking a friend or family member to be on call to run errands is also helpful.
As much as possible, things should be in order inside and outside the home prior to surgery. For instance, there should be no obstructions or obstacles that prevent easy movement around the home. Lawn maintenance, trash pick-up, and other outside chores should be done or arranged ahead of time.
RECOVERY: AFTER THE SURGERY
Once the surgery is completed, a patient is required to remain in a face-down position for the duration of the recovery period. Depending on the nature and severity of the surgery, an ophthalmologist can prescribe anywhere from a single day to up to two weeks of face-down recovery time.
Remaining in this position is crucial in order for the surgery to be successful, and the reason is quite simple… gravity. While facing down, the bubble rises and presses against the macula at the back of the eye, and holds it in place to seal the hole. Raising the head for any amount of time allows the bubble to move, and slows the healing. While the hole is being repaired, the inner eye gradually fills again with natural fluids.
Needless to say, most people find it very difficult to remain in a single position for any length of time, let alone face-down. For this reason, it is very important to discuss the recovery process fully with an ophthalmologist before surgery. It is equally important to make use of only high-quality recovery equipment in order to make the recovery as comfortable as possible.
Both the patient and any family members/friends who are helping with the recovery quickly learn that the process can be much less stressful when some simple guidelines are followed. For instance:
Computer: Whether it’s for work or personal use, with proper head and neck support a computer can be used in a face-down position, even for long periods of time. Likewise, books, magazines, and newspapers can be enjoyed while recovering.
Sleeping: Sleeping face-down can be tricky and hard to get used to. But with proper support for the head, neck, and shoulders, a good night’s sleep can be had.
Personal Hygiene: Showering, bathing, and using the toilet are all possible while remaining face-down. Planning ahead so that soap, shampoo, razors, etc. are low enough to be reached, is important.