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If you have an eye condition that causes problems with your retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of your eye) or vitreous (the gel-like fluid that fills your eye), your eye doctor may recommend a type of surgery called vitrectomy.

What eye conditions does vitrectomy treat?

Vitrectomy can help doctors treat several different eye conditions. For example, vitrectomy may be part of the treatment plan for:

  • Retinal detachment, by helping your doctor repair any holes or tears in the retina
  • Diabetic retinopathy, by replacing cloudy vitreous and helping your doctor find and repair sources of bleeding in the retina

Like any surgery, this treatment has risks. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of vitrectomy.

What happens during vitrectomy?

During vitrectomy surgery, your eye doctor will make very small openings in your eye wall and remove most of the vitreous from your eye with a suction tool.

Depending on your treatment plan, your doctor may also:

  • Use a laser or freeze treatment to reattach or repair your retina
  • Inject a bubble of air, other gas, or silicone oil into your eye to hold your retina in place

Doctors can either use numbing eye drops or shots so you won’t feel pain during the surgery, or they can use general anesthesia to put you to sleep for the surgery. Before your vitrectomy surgery, talk with your doctor about your anesthesia options.

If you need vitrectomy in both eyes, you’ll only get surgery on 1 eye at a time. Your doctor can schedule surgery on the second eye after the first eye has recovered.

How long does it take to recover?

Most people go home the same day of surgery. You’ll need someone to drive you home from the hospital.

Your eye may be swollen and red for several weeks after the surgery. While your eye is healing, you may have some eye pain and your vision may be blurrier than before the surgery. You’ll have follow-up appointments so your eye doctor can check your vision and make sure your eye is healing.

After the surgery, you’ll need to:

  • Wear an eye patch, usually for about a day
  • Use eye drops to reduce swelling and prevent infections
  • Avoid some activities — like driving, intense exercise, and heavy lifting — while your eye heals
  • Take some time off work — usually 2 to 4 weeks

Ask your doctor when it’s safe to go back to work and start driving and exercising again.

If the doctor puts a gas bubble in your eye, you’ll need to:

  • Hold your head in a certain position for a few days to a few weeks, to keep the gas bubble in the right spot
  • Avoid flying in an airplane or traveling to high altitudes while the bubble is in your eye

Ask your doctor how long you need to keep doing these things after surgery.

Eventually, your eye will make new fluid to replace the vitreous that was removed during the surgery. If the doctor put silicone oil in your eye during your surgery, you may need a second surgery to remove the oil.

Last updated: October 31, 2022