Retinal Detachment Surgery

The retina is the innermost layer of the wall of the eye and is made up of light sensitive cells known as rods and cones, which detect shape, color and pattern. It is supported on the inside by the jelly-like vitreous, which fills the eyeball behind the lens. 
On its outer side the retina is attached to the choroid, or middle layer, which is rich in blood vessels. Nerve fibers leaving the retina bundle together to form the optic nerve, which relays visual information to the brain. 
Retinal detachment is when the retina pulls away from the tissue around it (the choroid), which supplies it with oxygen and nutrients. When the retina is detached it can no longer function and vision is lost.

Studies have shown that the incidence of retinal detachments caused by tears in the retina is fairly low, affecting approximately one in 10,000 people each year. Many retinal tears do not progress to retinal detachment. Nevertheless, many risk factors for developing retinal detachments are recognized, including certain diseases of the eyes (discussed below), cataract surgery, and trauma to the eye. Retinal detachments can occur at any age but are most common in adults 40 years and older who are highly nearsighted (myopic) and in older people following cataract surgery.

Symptoms include a sudden or gradual increase in either the number of floaters, which are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision, and/or light flashes in the eye. Another symptom is the appearance of a curtain over the field of vision. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a retinal detachment should see an eye care professional immediately.

Our ophthalmologists can diagnose retinal tear or retinal detachment during an eye examination where he or she dilates (widens) the pupils of your eyes. An ultrasound of the eye may also be performed to get additional detail of the retina.
Only after careful examination can your ophthalmologist tell whether a retinal tear or early retinal detachment is present. Some retinal detachments are found during a routine eye examination. That is why it is so important to have regular eye exams


Most retinal tears need to be treated by sealing the retina to the back wall of the eye with laser surgery or cryotherapy (a freezing treatment). Both of these procedures create a scar that helps seal the retina to the back of the eye. This prevents fluid from traveling through the tear and under the retina, which usually prevents the retina from detaching. These treatments cause little or no discomfort and may be performed in your ophthalmologist’s office.
Laser surgery (photocoagulation) with laser surgery, your ophthalmologist uses a laser to make small burns around the retinal tear. The scarring that results seals the retina to the underlying tissue, helping to prevent a retinal detachment.
Freezing treatment (cryopexy). Your eye surgeon uses a special freezing probe to apply intense cold and freeze the retina around the retinal tear. The result is a scar that helps secure the retina to the eye wall.
Most retinal detachment surgeries (80 to 90 percent) are successful, although a second operation is sometimes needed.