Vitrectomy is an ophthalmological surgical procedure that is recommended in the treatment of eye problems related to the retina or the vitreous of the eye. The surgery consists in removing the vitreous, the transparent gel that is in the center of the eyeball, between the lens and the retina. In order for the image to form optimally on the retina, this gel needs to remain transparent. Some eye problems cause intravitreal hemorrhage, in which case the gel loses its natural properties and the vitreous must be removed.
Patients who are recommended this surgery, regardless of the reason, must inform themselves about the stages of the procedure, its purpose, results, risks, post-operative recovery, and costs. In addition to an open discussion with the ophthalmologist, we urge you to find important information in the following lines.
How Much Does a Vitrectomy Cost?
The cost of a vitrectomy surgery would be anywhere between $1,200 and $7,500 per eye, depending on various factors such as the place where you are living, your health insurance policy, the facility you choose, the surgeon who performs the surgery, and what has to be done during the procedure. According to various online sources, the costs would come down to what has to be done during the procedure and how much the facility is willing to haggle in case you don’t have a health insurance policy.
Though, if you are covered by health insurance, the costs of this procedure should be covered if this is medically necessary. In this situation, you will only be responsible for your deductibles and co-pays. However, in most situations, even though you might be on a high deductible plan, the insurance coverage will be much lower compared to what someone without health insurance would have to pay.
For instance, you will have to pay around $1,300 for a vitrectomy with a focal Endo laser, in case you pay cash upfront. On the other hand, the cost of a vitrectomy which involves the removal of the membrane of the retina would be around $1,500.
According to a member of the Tapa Talk online forum, the cost of a vitrectomy is $13,000, but you will have to pay just $1,200 if you have health insurance. Other members said that if you haggle, you may be able to obtain a price of $6,500.
When is vitrectomy surgery recommended?
Many eye conditions can lead to loss of transparency of the vitreous body. It can fill with blood following a hemorrhage, stiffen or scar. Any of these causes the defective formation of the image on the retina, because the light no longer penetrates properly through the vitreous body. In this case, removing and replacing the fluid may resolve or improve the problem. If the doctor cannot predict resorption of the opacification, vitrectomy will be recommended.
Vitrectomy may also be recommended in the case of retinal detachment.
Removing the vitreous can also give the doctor access to the macula. It is located in the center of the retina and helps with visual acuity. Macular hole is a condition that can cause blurred vision. After removing the vitreous fluid, it will be easier for the doctor to treat this condition.
Other conditions that may require vitrectomy are:
- Serious eye injuries;
- Damage to blood vessels in the retina;
- Macular degeneration;
- Major eye infections.
How is vitrectomy surgery done?
The surgery is performed under local anesthesia. This can take 1 hour or even more. The operation is performed under a microscope and with the help of several fine instruments the surgeon will remove the vitreous as well as any scar tissue or foreign body from the eye.
To fix the retina and stabilize it, the doctor can inject a special gas, and this gas bubble will resorb itself.
Before completing the surgery, the doctor may fill the eye with a special oil, silicone oil. If the eye is filled with silicone oil, it must be removed in a subsequent procedure. Depending on the complexity of the procedure, the doctor may close the surgery with a self-absorbing suture. However, most patients do not need stitches. After the surgery, the eye will be covered with a bandage that will be removed the day after the intervention and the patient will have to use antibiotic drops for a period of 45 days.
What to expect after surgery?
After the surgery, the eye will be bandaged until the next day, after which the patient will use drops for the next 4 weeks, and finally he will return for a consultation. The next day, the patient can return to daily activities.
What does the recovery period involve?
The first day after the surgery, the first hours, the patient will have to keep his head in a certain position, to keep the gas bubble in the right position so that it can support the retina. Until the gas clears on its own, vision will not be optimal. Before the gas dissolves, it is recommended that patients not fly. The high pressure in the air could cause problems that can lead to vision loss.
To prevent infections, patients will use antibiotic drops. If the eye is painful, pain relievers can be taken. Post-operative doctor visits are also required.
What are the risks of vitrectomy surgery?
As with any surgery, complications can occur with vitrectomy as well. These may include:
- Retinal tear or detachment;
- Increased intraocular pressure (can lead to glaucoma);
- Poor vision;
Patients should also contact their specialist immediately if:
- They experience severe pain accompanied by swelling and redness of the area around the eye;
- They start to lose their sight;
- They see spots of light;
- They have discharge from the eyes.
Most of the time, however, after vitrectomy surgery the vision is improved or stabilized, and does not get worse.