Retinal procedures are performed to treat problems that occur within the retina, the back part of the eye that contains the nerves that receives light and signals the optic nerve and brain to work together and produce images.
Retinal issues are serious, and most require immediate medical and surgical attention from an ophthalmologist. Because every retinal problem is unique, each patient requires an individualized approach.
Common retinal procedures include:
- Vitrectomy. When the vitreous causes a retinal detachment or fills with blood causing poor vision, the vitreous — a clear, jelly-like substance within the eyeball — may need to be removed during a vitrectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon creates a small incision in the wall of the eye and removes the vitreous with a tiny vacuum cutter, and the fluid is replaced with natural salt water. The goal is to help improve visual acuity. Some will experience mild discomfort or redness for a few days after the surgery, which can be relieved by over the counter or prescription pain medication.
- Scleral buckle surgery. Sometimes used to treat retinal detachment [link to retinal detachment condition page], scleral buckle surgery involves the surgeon attaching a small piece of silicone rubber to the outside of the white of the eye. Once in place, the buckle lightly squeezes the eye so that the detached retina returns back into place.
- Pneumatic retinopexy. During this procedure to treat some types of retinal tears, a surgeon will inserts a gas bubble into the eye to gently push the retina back into place. The bubble is eventually absorbed by the fluid within the eye.
During vitrectomy, scleral buckle surgery or pneumatic retinopexy, the surgeon will usually perform additional procedures to seal the retina in place and to ensure that it does not tear again. These secondary surgeries are known as laser photocoagulation and cryopexy.
- Laser photocoagulation procedures use a laser beam to permanently weld the retina to the wall of the eye.
- Cryopexy procedures apply a freezing probe to the outside of the eye, and the freezing penetrates into the eye. The retinal tear is frozen inside the eye, and scar tissue anchors the retina in place.