What is retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment is a serious condition of the eye in which the retina
stops receiving oxygen. The symptoms of a retinal detachment can be
might appear to float across your eye, or a gray veil may move across your
field of vision. If not treated quickly, a retinal detachment can cause you to lose
your vision. Retinal detachment repair is a surgery that is used to restore
circulation to the retina and preserve vision. If you have the symptoms described
above, you should call your ophthalmologist or go to the emergency department
Why is a retinal detachment repair performed?
Your retina is the part of your eye that sends images through your optic
nerve to the brain. Your retina contains millions of cells that detect light
like a camera. It is part of the very back of your eyeball and is essential to
Retinal detachment occurs when the retina pulls away from the back of the
eye and the blood supply. Without a blood supply, the retinal cells will start
to die. This can cause permanent damage to your vision. If the macula (central
vision area) begins to loosen, your vision may be permanently damaged. If the
macula completely detaches, you may lose your vision entirely. Reattaching the
retina quickly is essential to prevent such a serious complication.
Retinal detachment can occur because the vitreous fluid of the eye (a
gel-like liquid) retracts from the back of the eye, pulling the retina and
tearing it. That tear can then pull away from the back of the eye and detach
the retina. Some causes and risk factors of retinal detachment include glaucoma,
severe trauma, nearsightedness, previous cataract surgery, previous retinal detachment
in your other eye, or family history of retinal detachment.
How is a retinal detachment repair performed?
There are several types of surgery to repair a detached retina. A simple
tear in the retina can be treated with freezing, called cryotherapy, or a laser
procedure. Different types of retinal detachment require different kinds of
surgery and different levels of anesthesia. The type of procedure your doctor
preforms will depend on the severity of retinal detachment.
One method of retinal detachment repair is pneumatic retinopexy. In this
procedure, a gas bubble is injected into the eye. The bubble presses against
the detached retina and pushes it back into place. A laser or cryotherapy is
then used to reattach the retina firmly into place. The gas bubble will
dissolve in a few days. A pneumatic retinopexy can be done in an
In more severe tears, a procedure called a scleral buckle may be performed.
During a scleral buckle a doctor will place a flexible band around the eye to
counteract the force that is pulling the retina out of place. The fluid behind
the detached retina will be drained, and the retina should return to its normal
place in the back of the eye. This procedure is done in a hospital, operating
room, or surgery clinic. Local or general anesthesia will be used, and you may
need to stay overnight in the hospital.
A vitrectomy is a procedure done for serious retinal detachments. It may
require partially removing the vitreous fluid inside the eye. Local anesthesia
is used and the procedure is usually done in a surgical clinic.
How do I prepare for retinal detachment repair?
Retinal detachment repair is usually done on an emergency basis. Be sure to
tell your doctor about any medications you may be taking that could interfere
with the surgery or the anesthesia.
What are the risks of retinal detachment repair?
Surgery always carries some risk. If you have general anesthesia, it can
interfere with breathing. Some people have serious reactions to the medication.
If the retina was damaged before reattachment, there can be permanent loss
What can be expected in the long term?
Usually the retina can be attached in a single operation, but sometimes
multiple procedures are required. More than 90 percent of detachments can be
repaired. In the less than 10 percent of detachments that cannot be repaired,
the patient will have either poor vision or no vision in that eye.
The success of a retinal repair depends on the seriousness of the tears and
detachment and how much scar tissue was formed in the retina. If the macula or
central portion of the retina was not affected, vision will be good. If the
macula was detached for a long time, some vision will return, but it will often
be less than 20/200, which is legally blind. It may take several months of
healing after surgery to determine how much vision will return.