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  • Face-Down Recovery After Retinal Surgery

    Reviewed By Ninel Z Gregori, MD
    Sep. 05, 2023

    What Is Face-down Recovery After Retinal Surgery?

    After some types of retinal surgery, you will need to keep your head in a face-down position. This is because a gas bubble has been put in your eye. Recovering with your head down allows the bubble to float into the correct position. The bubble holds the retina in place to heal correctly.

    Profile-view Illustration of an eye, detailing anatomy that includes the cornea, lens, retina, optic nerve, among other structures.

    Your doctor will tell you how long you need to stay face down. It could be anywhere from a few days to a week or more. Over time, your eye fills with its own fluid, and the gas bubble disappears.

    Face-down recovery with gas bubble inside eye after retinal surgery

    When seated or lying face down, the bubble floats in the correct position in your eye, puts pressure on the retina and helps it reattach to the back of the eye.


    Important Things to Know About Face-down Recovery:

    • You must stay face down at all times, unless your eye surgeon tells you otherwise. This means staying face down when you stand, sit, eat, walk, and sleep. To stay safe, have someone with you when you walk around.
    • Your surgery may not work if you do not recover in the recommended position. This is because lying in the wrong position puts pressure on other parts of your eye. That can lead to other eye problems.
    • You cannot fly in an airplane, go to mountains/high altitudes or scuba dive until the gas bubble is gone. Altitude changes can cause your eye pressure to rise. That can lead to problems with the bubble.

    Making Your Face-down or Sideways Recovery easier while:

    • Sitting: Fold your arms on a table and lay your forehead on your arms.
    • Lying down: Lie face down on a pillow; have the recovering side of your face hang off the edge of the bed. This helps reduce pain and keeps pressure off your operated eye.
    • Or any time, with special equipment to make your recovery more comfortable. You can rent or buy equipment such as:
      • Face-down chairs. These can adjust to provide support for your head and neck while you sit.
      • Tabletop face cradles. These allow you to keep your hands free while sitting at the table.
      • Face-down pillows. These have a space cut out for your face to help you sleep more comfortably.
      • Face-down mirrors. These are angled to let you see people or objects in front of you. That way you can watch TV or speak directly with visitors.

    Ask your ophthalmologist for information about renting or buying face-down recovery equipment. These items will help make your recovery more comfortable.