Vitrectomies Can Change The Shape Of The Eye

The eye is full of optically clear fluid called the vitreous humor, which gives the eye a spherical shape. A surgeon may sometimes need to perform a vitrectomy to remove this fluid from the eye. At the end of the procedure, the ophthalmologist fills the eye with saline or silicone oil to keep the eye inflated.

Why perform a vitrectomy, anyway?

Vitrectomies are performed for a few different reasons. If the retina, located at the back of the eye, detaches or tears, a vitrectomy makes the repair process easier. Blood, foreign objects, or scar tissue gets trapped among the clear vitreous fluid. These opaque objects disrupt light, blocking vision when crossing the line of sight. A vitrectomy removes those obstructions so patients can see clearly again.

Where did that cataract come from?

During the vitrectomy, physicians often work on damaged tissue on or around the retina. When doing so, instruments can cause some disruption in the eye’s natural lens that has lasting effects. This trauma can lead to a cataract forming somewhat rapidly in that lens.

What do cataracts have to do with a vitrectomy?

Cataracts are a disease of the eye that impairs vision. Usually age-related, cataracts develop as protein strands in the eye’s natural lens begin to break down. Previously clear, the tissue loses transparency, and light struggles to pass through.

While typically slow-growing, cataracts can take years to lower the quality of a patient’s sight. After a vitrectomy procedure, cataract formation tends to happen much more quickly. If left unchecked, cataracts can cause complete blindness. Fortunately, the condition is reversible through cataract extraction, where the doctor removes the cloudy lens and inserts an artificial lens instead.

Just say when

Due to the nature of a vitrectomy, cataracts do often form in the operated eye. Even if the cataract thickens quickly, the surgeon will wait until the eye has healed sufficiently before operating again. There’s no exact science surrounding the time needed between procedures, and the doctor will determine the interval case by case. Depending on how the eye recovers, a few months could elapse before cataract surgery is scheduled.

Going the extra mile after a vitrectomy

After a vitrectomy procedure, the ophthalmologist will take extra precautions when preparing for cataract surgery. Through careful inspection, the physician will assess the state of the lens and the capsule the lens sits in. Measurements will take into account that the eye is now filled with saline or silicone oil instead of vitreous fluid. Even with these additional considerations, cataract surgery still has a high success rate, improving sight in a majority of patients.