Retinal Detachment Repair

This surgery involves repairing a retina that has separated from the back of the eye.

This surgery involves repairing a retina that has separated from the back of the eye.

The retina is a thin layer of tissue lining the back in the eye. It acts like film in a camera. As light passes through the lens of the eye, it is focused onto the retina. The retina, which is sensitive to light, "takes the picture" and transmits the image through the optic nerve to the brain.

  • A retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the structures that support it. Some causes of a retinal detachment are trauma, nearsightedness, diabetes that is not well controlled, previous surgery on the eye and chronic inflammation in the eye.
  • A detached retina can lead to bleeding in the eye and impaired vision or blindness. Sudden loss of vision should always be treated as a medical emergency.

This care path is for the repair of a simple retinal detachment performed in an eye doctor's office. If a detachment is severe, it may need to be done in an operating room.

A detached retina can lead to permanent vision loss, so it should be evaluated quickly. This is true even if it is an evening, weekend or holiday. The urgency of the repair depends on where the detachment is located and how severe the detachment is. Some of the symptoms of a detached retina include:

  • Flashes of light
  • Blurred vision
  • New moving spots or floaters in your vision
  • Shadows or blind spots in one eye

Your eye doctor will perform several tests to check the inside of your eye. Based on the test results, he or she will determine the best course of treatment for you. If the detachment is not severe, it may be repaired in the office using a laser to close the hole or tear. A “gas bubble” may then be placed in the eye to hold the retina in place.

  • Most detached retinas need to be repaired as soon as possible. However, if your retina has been detached for a long time a repair may not be needed.
  • If the detachment is severe, it may need to be repaired in an operating room. This is because it may require more complex procedures, such as a scleral buckle and/or a vitrectomy.
  • A scleral buckle involves placement of a silicone band or sponge on the outside of the eye, underneath the conjunctiva (the clear covering of the eye). The band or sponge gently pushes in on the wall of the eye. It creates a “shelf” inside the eye that supports the retina.
  • A vitrectomy is used for complex retinal detachments. It involves removing the gel from the inside of the eye. Laser surgery or freezing treatment (cryopexy) is then done to seal the tear. An air or gas bubble is often placed in the eye. This may require you to lay face down for a few days after surgery. The gas bubble goes away on its own and is replaced by a clear fluid that the eye makes (aqueous humor).

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a detached retina repair?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the surgery?
  • What are the possible complications for this surgery?
  • What are my likely outcomes from this surgery? Will my vision return?
  • Are there any alternatives to this surgery? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • Is there any special preparation for the surgery? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What type of sedation will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will I feel after the surgery? Will I have to modify my activity?

After your surgery, you should know what you had done, what medication was given and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider. Get your instructions in writing. You should also understand all home care instructions (including eye drops, medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. It will be important to bring a friend or family member with you to the appointment so they can listen and take notes for you. Do not forget to arrange for transportation to and from the facility.


Also known as:

Torn Retina
Retinal Detachment Repair
Retinal Detachment
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