Retinal Tears and Detachment

What are retinal tears and retinal detachment?

  • Retinal detachments is a sight threatening eye condition that affects about 1 in 10,000 people per year.
  • It is usually caused by tears or holes in the retina which causes it to separate from the underlying layers.
  • Symptoms of retinal tears or detachment can include flashes, floaters and decreased vision in the form of a shadow.
  • Retinal tears or holes may be treated with laser, but retinal detachment usually requires a surgical operation.

Procedure information

  • There are two principal methods of retinal detachment surgery which can be employed separately or in combination: scleral buckling and/or vitrectomy.
  • Scleral buckling involves suturing a silicone belt around the circumfer- ence of the eye. This is placed underneath the conjunctiva (the “skin” of the white of the eye) and is not visible externally. Retinal holes or tears are treated during the operation with cryotherapy (freezing) and the silicone belt is tightened slightly. The conjunctiva is then reapposed and closed with self-absorbing sutures. A small gas bubble is usually left in the eye which will be reabsorbed.
  • Vitrectomy involves using micro-instruments inserted into the white of the eye (sclera) to remove the vitreous gel, treat retinal tears or holes with laser, and flatten the retinal detachment. At the completion of surgery, a gas bubble or an oil bubble is usually left in place to maintain retinal attachment.
  • With both operations, patients are generally advised to posture for up to 7 days following surgery. This will be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Surgery is usually performed under local anaesthesia with sedation, and patients will be seen the following day for a post-operative check.
  • The patient is required to use eyedrops for a few weeks, and a night time shield for a week.

More information