A retinal detachment is a condition where the retina detaches itself from the underlying layer. Usually, the retina is torn (see Flashes and Floaters) that allows for a gradual accumulation of fluid under the retina. The patient will commonly recognize this as a shadow or a curtain in front of their eye, that does not disappear and gradually gets worse, eventually affecting their central vision. If this problem is not corrected, the process will almost inevitably lead to blindness in the eye with the detachment.
Treatment will depend on the type of detachment, the age of the patient and the length of time that the retina has been detached. There are 2 types of operations: an internal approach consisting of a “vitrectomy”, or an external approach, which involves placing a sponge on the outside of the eye to cover the hole in the retina. The eye surgeon will discuss with you, the type of surgery which best suits your problem.
Vitrectomy for Retinal Detachment
Vitrectomy is currently the standard technique for treating most retinal detachments. It involves creating 3 little holes on the sclera (white of the eye) through which 3 different instruments are put through. It allows for the removal of the vitreous gel inside the eye, after which we identify where the holes in the retina are. The holes are then treated with either freezing treatment or laser. A bubble of gas is then placed inside the eye to help push the retina in its place. This bubble of gas is then gradually absorbed by the eye, a process that takes some weeks. During this time the vision will be very blurry. Occasionally, we have to use oil inside the eye to help the retina stay in its place. The oil is then removed after a few months, a process that requires another operation. Sometimes we leave the oil in the eye, usually when the surgeon feels that removing it may cause the retina to detach again.
Following the operation drops are used for a few weeks to reduce the inflammation in the eye. Regular post-operative check-ups are required to ensure a good outcome.