• What Happens During a Vitrectomy?

    Written By: Kierstan Boyd
    Reviewed By: G Atma Vemulakonda, MD
    Apr. 06, 2018

    Vitrectomy is usually done in an outpatient surgery center. You will have a local or a general anesthesia to numb the eye. Surgery can take from 1 to several hours.

    During surgery, the ophthalmologist will make a small cut (incision) in the white of the eye (sclera). He or she will use a microscope to see inside your eye. Your surgeon will use tiny tools to do one or more of these steps:

    • remove all cloudy vitreous
    • remove scar tissue from the retina
    • remove any cataracts
    • remove any object that should not be in the eye
    • return the retina to its proper position against the back of the eye
    • use a laser to repair a torn retina or other procedure
    • place an air or gas bubble in your eye to help the retina remain in its proper position (bubble goes away on its own)
    • place a silicone oil bubble in your eye (oil removed later during second surgery)

    Following the surgery, you will be monitored as you rest and recover from anesthesia. Then you can go home.

    Illustration of vitrectomy surgery. Vitrectomy is a type of eye surgery used to treat problems of the eye's retina and vitreous.

    What happens after vitrectomy surgery?

    Your ophthalmologist will prescribe medicine to help relieve pain. You will also be given eye drops to use for up to 4 weeks.

    Your doctor will have you wear a patch on your eye for a few days to protect it. He or she will tell you when you can safely get back to doing your normal activities.

    If a gas bubble was placed in your eye

    You will need to keep your head in a facedown (or side-facing) position for a specific period of time. Your ophthalmologist will tell you exactly how long to stay in that position. It is very important to follow these instructions to heal properly.

    You cannot fly in an airplane until the gas bubble is gone. This is because a rapid altitude change can affect the size of the bubble.