What to expect from a vitrectomy
September 3, 2010 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend who is about to undergo emergency vitrectomy surgery. What should he expect in terms of the procedure and the recovery?

I've read about the procedure itself in various places online, but personal experiences are always very valuable with things like this. Thanks.
posted by crapples to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
It can vary a good bit depending exactly what he has done (the term vitrectomy is pretty broad). The thing most specific to vitrectomy is that sometimes a gas bubble is used to hold the retina in place afterward and that often requires the patient to maintain a certain position (typically face down) for several weeks. This in turn means they will need some assistance with normal activities.
posted by TedW at 7:11 AM on September 3, 2010

After my vitrectomy, the air bubble was the bitch to deal with. Face down for several weeks, no reading, no TV watching (at first.)

Books on tape and conversations were the only things that kept me sane.
posted by unixrat at 7:19 AM on September 3, 2010

TedW - You say that "the term vitrectomy is pretty broad". The only detail I can add from the information I have right now is that they are fixing a "large" tear in the retina, in case that adds any clarity. Thanks for the responses.
posted by crapples at 7:30 AM on September 3, 2010

I got a scleral buckle and they didn't do a vitrectomy when I had my retina fixed, but I still got the gas bubble. I got to sleep sitting up until the gas absorbed fully, about ten days. It was like having a slightly wacky reddish-brown carpenter's level in my eye; I kept threatening to straighten pictures for my mom.

No joke, full-on buckling of the eye is excruciatingly painful. I did nothing but take Darvocet and listen to the BBC World Service for six days straight before I felt competent to deal with anything. If there's a buckle involved, your pal is going to need a hand with a lot of basic stuff, like making it to the next-day followup appointment and getting back home to sit up and have meds.

My retinal tear was pretty bad, but I did OK after the initial pain. Vigilant pain management is a must post-op. Your pal will need a lot of rest in positions that aren't really restful, so drugs and good pillows will help.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:49 AM on September 3, 2010

They might get silicon oil. I have had 2 vitrektomies in the last year; same eye. First one pressure rose dramatically and took about 6 weeks to fully dissipate. 2nd 7 weeks ago was gone in 2 weeks.
pain and sleep only needed small benadryl pill.
Keeping head in position is really only for two weeks. If its not stuck by then you have other problems. I was blinded in both eyes so radio and podcasts helped.
posted by stuartmm at 8:16 AM on September 3, 2010

I had a vitrectomy in June of this year; I have diabetic retinopathy. Having it done while awake was very uncomfortable, not painful exactly, just disturbing. If I have to have it again, I'm going to insist on complete sedation.

I had a gas bubble inserted as others have stated, but didn't have to stay in any one position. The bubble was like having a spirit level in your eye. It shrunk every day and took about ten days to disappear.

I had to leave the patch on for a day, sleep with a hard plastic patch for a week and take it easy for three weeks.

I wasn't able to read or use my computer for three days or so, but could watch TV the day after my morning surgery (so, 24 hours or so to be able to watch TV).

I found a wet, cool washcloth over my eye very soothing.

The area around my eye was very slightly bruised (I'm probably the only one who noticed it). There was some bleeding in the white of my eye that took a while to clear up, but that is normal.

I had follow-up appointments on the 10th day, four weeks and the last one is later this month.

It's been a few months, and while there's not any pain, I can still feel that something was done to my eye.

[This pretty much covers my experience, but feel free to meMail me with any questions.]
posted by deborah at 6:18 PM on September 3, 2010

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