What is a Vitrectomy?

A vitrectomy is a surgical technique used to cure diseases that affect the transparency of the vitreous (which is the internal gel of the eye) or problems that affect the retina (which is the back of the eye). Problems that affect the vitreous include hemorrhages due to diabetes, while problems that affect the retina include retinal detachments, macular holes, and epiretinal membranes. Sometimes a vitrectomy is combined with other surgeries, such as a cataract extraction with the implantation of an intraocular lens. A vitrectomy can also be used to resolve complications that may have occurred during other eye surgeries like infections or dislocated intraocular lenses.

The Equipment Needed for a Vitrectomy

Vitrectomy as Seen From the Outside

This surgery is performed under local anesthesia using a surgical microscope and may take between 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the complexity of the case. The surgeon usually places 3 access routes, each of which is a small microincision less than 1 mm in diameter. The first access route is used for the infusion system (liquid entry) to maintain a specific pressure inside of the eye. The second access route is used for a fiber optic light that illuminates the retina, and the third access route is for the vitrector to cut and remove the vitreous gel.

A Pars Plana Vitrectomy Approach

The risk of complications from a vitrectomy is small, with about 1 in 100 patients developing a retinal detachment and 1 in 2000 patients developing an infection after surgery. Moreover, both of these types of complications can be treated.

Below is a video that shows the vitrectomy procedure.

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