How to Survive Vitrectomy Surgery to Re-attach the Retina

I recently had surgery to fix a detached retina and, as of this writing, I am still recovering from it. This is the first of several posts where I will discuss the surgery and, primarily, the recovery. The recovery is quite an ordeal, but at the moment, it seems to be going well, and the retina seems to be in place.

I’ve had a tear in my retina for years, but it somehow stopped itself with a ring of scar tissue. It went unchanged for years, but apparently decided to give way recently. I didn’t have the flashing or the gray curtain that so many people report when their retinas detach. Instead, things looked a little funny in my center vision, with straight lines not being exactly straight. It also seemed that things weren’t exactly where they should have been, which, I presume, was a sign that the whole retina had detached and the focal point was in the wrong spot. The other telling feature was a something that looked like a bubble on the lower right side of my vision. My ophthalmologist took a picture of the retina, and that area looked like curtains, so it had really lost its shape. It was still sensitive to light, so the retina was still alive and could possibly be repaired. My wife and I were hustled over to a retina specialist to get him to take a look and schedule surgery. Since things don’t just go bad a little, it turned out I also had a tear in the macula, which is the focus of detailed vision, so it was a challenging case.

The surgery apparently involved micro-scale instruments being inserted into the eye so the surgeon can place the retina and then use lasers (in my case) to tack it down. It is called a vitrectomy, because the vitreous jelly that fills the eye is removed. In my case, a gas bubble was then put in to keep the retina in place during the healing process. The gas bubble floats, and the retina is at the back of the eye, so, if you are good at mentally visualizing that situation, you can guess why the recovery period is so unpleasant. I have to remain face down all the time, except when I’m getting drops put into the eye. All the time! I was initially told 2 weeks, but when the 2 weeks were nearly up, I was given 2 more weeks. I’m not done with those two weeks as of this writing, but I expect more face down time. Future posts will cover the setup I used to make my recovery as comfortable as possible.

Initially, I was supposed to be partly awake for the surgery, which sounded kinda cool, but also horrifying. It turned out that I started snoring in the twilight sleep they put me in, so the anesthesiologist decided to put me all the way under so my snoring didn’t vibrate my head and mess up the surgeon. The surgery apparently went well, though my vision will be messed up for quite a while, so I won’t know the final outcome for a while. The surgeon did close the macular hole and the bubble is holding it in place, so fingers are crossed for a good outcome.

Next post in the series: Night

Comments are closed.