How Is a Detached Retina Fixed?
Retinal detachment happens when the retina, the light sensitive-layer of tissue at the back of the eye, is pulled away from its normal position. Symptoms include a dark or gray curtain-like shadow over the field of vision, flashes of light in one or both eyes, the sudden appearance of eye floaters, gradually decreased peripheral vision and blurred vision. A detached retina is a very serious medical emergency. If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, seek medical treatment as soon as possible to protect and preserve your vision.
A detached retina can be fixed by surgery. There are 3 main types of surgery to repair a detached retina: pneumatic retinopexy, scleral buckle and vitrectomy. Pneumatic retinopexy is usually an office-based procedure whereas scleral buckle and vitrectomy will take place in an operating room.
Pneumatic retinopexy involves injecting air or gas into the eye. After anesthetic eye drops are administered, a small air or gas bubble is specifically positioned into the eye to push the retina back into place to both flatten it and to stop the flow of fluid into the space behind the retina. The surgeon will then use either a laser, known as coagulation, or a freezing therapy, known as cryopexy, to repair any holes or tears in the retina.
Scleral buckle involves indenting the surface of the eye. Scleral buckle procedures are less common because vitrectomy is often the go-to fix for retinal detachment. During a buckle procedure, the surgeon will suture a small silicone band or sponge around the sclera, the white part of the eye. This procedure presses the wall of the eye inward to prevent the vitreous from tugging on the retina, allowing the retina to attach to the eye’s interior wall. The buckle is placed in a way as to not obscure vision and usually remains in place permanently.
Vitrectomy involves draining and replacing the fluid in the eye. A vitrectomy is similar to the pneumatic retinopexy procedure but is often combined with the scleral buckle procedure. With a vitrectomy, a surgeon removes some or all of the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the eye, along with any tissue that is pulling on the retina. The vitreous space is then replaced with a saline solution or a bubble made of air, gas or silicone oil to help flatten the retina. During the healing process post-surgery, the eye replaces whichever artificial option was used, either the saline or bubble, with the natural fluid made by the eye called the aqueous humor. In a vitrectomy, the surgeon may also remove blood that is blocking light from focusing on the retina as well as any foreign objects or scar tissue that is also causing the tearing or detachment of the retina.
The fix for a detached retina can be accomplished with any of the above surgery options. Your doctor will likely anticipate 2 to 4 weeks for recovery since red, tender and swollen eyes are common after surgery. Each patient’s recovery is different but anyone with retinal detachment symptoms is urged to contact a medical emergency professional right away to maintain vision. For the highest quality of care and to learn more about Associated Retina Consultants, visit our Phoenix here or schedule your comprehensive eye exam that includes retinal imaging by calling 602-242-4928.