Retinal Eye Surgery

What is retinal surgery?

Some retinal conditions are medical emergencies, as they can threaten your sight. Conditions such as a detached retina require urgent treatment to prevent permanent loss of vision.

The most common modern retinal surgical procedure is a Pars Plana Vitrectomy (PPV). This surgery removes the vitreous humour (a gel-like substance within the interior of the eye), allowing the retinal surgeon to perform a variety of procedures, including removal of scar tissue, laser repair of retinal breaks, and repair of macular holes. 

Conditions we treat

Macular epiretinal membrane (Macular pucker)

A macular epiretinal membrane (ERM) is caused by scar tissue that forms on the surface of the macula, which can lead to distorted and blurred central vision. Most cases occur in people over the age of 50 years. If left untreated, its effects on vision may become permanent. Surgical intervention, involving a vitrectomy and careful removal of the abnormal scar tissue, can improve vision.

Retinal detachment

A retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the back of the eye. Symptoms include the sudden appearance of increased floaters, flashes of light, blurred vision, or reduced peripheral vision. A detached retina is a medical emergency as it can lead to permanent vision loss. Treatment depends on the type of retinal detachment, but often requires eye surgery (PPV or scleral buckling procedure), retinal laser, and filling the eye with gas or silicone oil in order to maintain the position of the retina.

Vitreous floaters

Most people notice transient floaters in their vision, such as small shapes that drift across the vision when you move your eyes. This is caused by the gradual degeneration of the vitreous gel, which is part of the normal ageing process.

However, a sudden increase in floaters can indicate a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is when the vitreous separates from the back of the eye. This may also produce brief flashes of light, due to traction on the retinal surface. A PVD may lead to retinal tears and retinal detachment, so a prompt and thorough retinal examination is critical.

Macular hole

A macular hole occurs when there is a small break in the central part of the retina. This can be due to the ageing process and degeneration of the vitreous gel. Macular holes can also be due to severe blunt eye trauma and rare forms of macular degeneration.

Early stages of macular hole may cause straight lines to look wavy, while later stages can cause a permanent central grey or black spot in the vision.

Treatment involves a pars plana vitrectomy and the insertion of a gas bubble into the eye to help close the macular hole. After surgery, you will generally need to posture face down for a period of 1-3 days to position the gas bubble directly over the macula in order to promote closure of the macular hole.

Vitreous haemorrhage

Vitreous haemorrhage occurs when blood fills the back of the eye. This may be caused by a retinal tear, diabetic eye disease, wet AMD, retinal vein occlusion, ruptured retinal artery, or eye injuries. Symptoms depend upon the amount of bleeding, but may include floaters and decreased vision. This condition can threaten your vision and requires urgent assessment and treatment.

How long does it take to recover from retinal surgery?

Recovery from eye surgery will depend upon the condition being treated and the specific procedure. This will be discussed during your initial consult prior to any treatment, along with the relevant risks and side effects of the proposed treatment.

Recovery from pars plana vitrectomy (PPV) usually takes 2 to 3 weeks. However, it may sometimes take up to 3 months for your retina to completely heal and to achieve your best final vision. If you have air or gas placed in your eye as part of your PPV, you are not able to drive, fly, or ascend to high altitudes while the air or gas remains in your eye. You will also need to take care with general anaesthetics during your recovery, as these may cause issues with elevated eye pressure.

Like all surgery, retinal surgery carries important risks, which will be discussed with you at your clinic visit.