Anyone have this eye surgery: vitrectomy?

socksMarch 8, 2009

If anyone has had this surgery, I'd like to hear about the recovery period when you must lie face down.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My husband had it done on Sept. 30. This will be long because I was the caregiver - not a pretty sight. If you are in the U.S. or Europe you will be able to rent much better recovery equipment than that that is available in Toronto, Canada - and also there is more of it! The most horrible part for me was having to have my husband come home the same day - apparently back in the day, they kept you for a few days. You will want to add to your equipment rental the piece for keeping head in the face down position in the car. Patient is sent home wearing an eye patch. Patient should be in back seat so no chance of being hit in face if air bag deploys. Then you have to go back next day - we had to leave at 6:00 a.m. - everyone who had the surgery same day as husband had same appointment next morning. They check the gas bubble - and have you read an eye chart and look for further tears in the eye - which they will laser if developed overnight. Then you have to get home again and sit in the chair during the day - and the face down position in the chair has to be the right one - sort of looking at your belly-button. Some doctors will say you can sit up to eat - others say to try and stay in face down position as much as you can - except for when you have to apply the horrible eye drops - one of which will be Prednisone which can affect one's moods (my husband didn't believe me on this). Food wise, think soft stuff - buy a kid's Sippy cup with a lid and a straw to avoid spillage. I bought apple sauce in little containers, yogourts, made scrambled eggs, porridge etc. - anything to prevent choking while in the position. You will want to avoid hot beverages. Also can't lift anything weighing over 5 lbs. for a couple of months. My husband had to sit in chair and use equipment for sleeping for a week and then go for another follow-up. The dog went to the boarders because whether a kid or a dog, when they see Daddy's face hanging down they become upset and want to hug - and that would be game over. You will also get a Prism type of device that affixes to chair to help you see "up and around". My husband has bad eyesight and his lenses for his glasses cost about $1,100 Cdn. - before the frames. He has a very thin retina and is a prime candidate for a Detached Retina - which would mean he would "bump" someone who is booked for a Vitrectomy - and many people do get bumped so be prepared. Many people travel from all over Ontario to Toronto for this surgery and rent the equipment, set it up in a hotel room, and then the surgery is cancelled. Toronto only has I think 18 rental chairs so you need to be set up soon. In the U.S. the chairs are much more user friendly as is the sleeping "pillow". A couple of days before surgery you will need to buy some drops and start using them so that eye is prepared for surgery. In Canada you have to take the used drops to hospital day of surgery and turn them in - they will exchange them for fresh ones. Under no circumstances allow the drop bottles to get infected - this happens so easily and then major complications can result. There is a lot of boredom obviously - my husband's chief worry was not being able to watch TV - well since he can't see a foot in front of his face without his glasses, that wasn't about to happen. Many people can see without their glasses - just using the one eye - he isn't one of them. I rented books on tape etc. But still what is a week out of your life - plus having to take it easy for a few months, compared to going blind. Unfortunately his surgery did not go as well as hoped. Certainly he expected a cataract to develop within 1 1/2 years - actually, originally the doctor wanted to wait until the cataract developed before doing the Vitrectomy but his eye deteriorated too much in between his 3 month appointments. And despite what people think about Cdn. healthcare, our provincial plan will not pay the $150 he has to pay every 3 months for the special eye test - and neither will his office work plan. His office plan would not pay for his rehab equipment either. I did speak with them and the fellow pointed out that for people with family coverage we have had very few claims. See where not taking lots of prescription meds gets you! Couldn't believe it. He started to develop the cataract in Jan. - so just 3 months post surgery. Surgeon suggested he see his ophth to ask for a stronger prescription (is there one?) but I expected the ophth to say that the cataract would have to develop and be removed first - and sadly, I was right. My husband just turned 60 which is young for this procedure, without having diabetes or as a result of an accident. I did meet a lady in the waiting room - his age - and still working who must also travel for work. You absolutely cannot fly for 6 - 8 weeks post surgery - and certainly not until the bubble dissipates. She had been booked for the surgery once before and then day of they decided she didn't need it. So she went for her regular exam - and surprise, she had to book the Vitrectomy again. Her eyes are exactly the same as my husband's - has practically the same prescription - and also is in danger of suffered a Detached Retina. She also is wondering if her eyes could withstand a second Vitrectomy. The hospital in Toronto is a teaching hospital - as you are being examined the chief surgeon grills the junior surgeon about other patients - it is like an episode of House. All of the people in the waiting room were equally frustrated. I managed to get one answer by waving my car keys and asking who besides me could drive. Make sure you have transportation to and from the hospital - they will ask you this and if you say you will be driving yourself you will be cancelled. Then there was the lady who ate a big breakfast because she would be hungry - well she deserved to be cancelled. I went and had my eyes tested just before his surgery for first time in 10 years - thankfully still 20/20 and my optometrist warned me that it would not be easy - and that she agreed they should keep the patients for a few days or at least overnight. If you are not the patient, be prepared for a grumbly one. Since patient will have to take the drops for a few months, the Pred will affect moods - not to extent that oral Pred will, but enough. I was ready to have my dog's vet right a note to my husband. Do everything you can to make sure patient does not suffer from a cold before surgery or it will be cancelled - I know, easier said than done. I had my husband locked up in the house for 3 days pre-surgery and stuffed him with every anti-oxidant known to mankind. So if you have a dog, can't be picked up; can't shovel snow; can't rake leaves - the list goes on. Can't get the eye wet - forget washing hair - if hair is short just run a damp washcloth over it; forget shaving if a man; if you have a shower that has a detachment so that you can just spray over body use that - otherwise freshen with baby wipes. Also you won't want to pull anything over head. Get some extra large pyjama tops and since you have to sleep on stomach you don't want to roll over. Some people tried tennis balls but they didn't work - I read a tip to use big Chip Clips - they worked - husband tried to roll over in sleep and the Clips woke him up. Try to keep off stairs as well - if possible stay on same floor as bathroom. As awful as it sounds, while I was at the store buying Sippy cup I bought a male urinal to minimize trips to bathroom. My husband at age 60 and 6 ft. in height weighs same as when he was 25 - 170 lbs. - with a huge appetite. He would eat more for breakfast post surgery than you would eat in a week and at noon was demanding his lunch. Even then he lost weight - what goes in comes out -so I was trying to minimize the number of trips from the chair. Also bought an adult bib that clipped at shoulders to help with spills and a speaker phone that I placed at his feet so that he could speak on phone. THE ONLY GOOD NEWS is that as bad as cataract surgery is - it is minor compared to a Vitrectomy - and you can sleep on your back. My husband has his father's eyes - blue - only one of 5 siblings to inherit them. But his 50 year old sister with brown eyes can see clearly through his lenses, so if I were her I would worry. My husband's night vision is nearly zip - thankfully mine is perfect at night. When the car falls apart we won't replace it - you can take a lot of taxis for the price even of insurance and maintenance not to mention the cost of the car and in this economy - well probably the best thing. I personally will miss the car and if it were me with the bad vision my husband would not consider going without a car. But you do what you have to do. It is my husband's left eye that is the problem so changing lanes is the devil. Funny thing is is that it is my family that suffers from diabetes and they all wear glasses - but I don't. Best of luck to you or the patient. Just remember - short term pain for ability to see. The chair provider told me that some clients only used the chair for a day instead of the prescribed one to two weeks and then needed the procedure done again - they were warned by the surgeon but didn't listen. We do not have family who could visit to give my husband (and me) a break. If you do, that would help a great deal. It is a very good thing that my husband wore contacts for many years so had no problem putting in the drops - I wouldn't be able to get one drop in.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 2:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My son in law had it done when he was only 42 as his retina was in peril of detaching. He also had a buckle surgery subsequently. He is 52 now and doing VERY well. He doesn't wear glasses unless he's doing close up work. After the vitrectomy he had to stay with his parents as my daughter had to work. She was thankful to them that they were so willing and good to him. It was hard for him but he never complained. He'd have done anything to save his vision. I hope this encourages you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 6:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you both.

Eccentric, this is worse than I imagined! Your post didn't encourage me, but I want to know the good, bad, and ugly, so I appreciate the detail. Your poor husband's body must have been aching after that ordeal.

The doctor is watching my eye to see if it is getting worse, and she warned me that the surgery may be in my future. She told me 3 days "in the position." I wonder why it's less time than your husband. Maybe because I have a partial hole and his was worse.

I am horrified at the thought of being so incapacitated for even 3 days. How on earth can a person sleep after a whole day of doing absolutely nothing? Take sleeping pills?

Can I walk around bent over to go to the bathroom and just get some exercise? I know I'll find all this out if/when the time comes.

I looked at a website that rents a variety of the equipment--chair, bed arrangements, etc. I just decided I want one of everything they have!! LOL! I can see there needs to be good preparation for this, and I only have DH to help me, and men really aren't very nurturing as a general rule.
So I figure I'll do as you suggested and get some prepared stuff that he can just bring me without "fixing" much. Books on tape, maybe I can even read in the chair, listen to music, maybe play a handheld video game? Please?

Again, thanks for the gruesome details. I don't like surprises, especially bad ones. I'm whiney and complaining, I know. It could be so much worse, and it's important to look on the bright side of things, but I feel a lot better now.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 7:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

socks, I had this operation on January 14 of this year--so just about 7 weeks ago. The doctor explained that a gas bubble may need to be inserted in the eye, and that I might have to sleep for awhile on my stomach (there was never talk about renting certain equipment). As it turned out, the surgery went very well and I didn't need to have the gas bubble inserted. I was home in a few hours and doing just fine. I live alone, so a friend stayed with me for 24 hours. I had a follow up doctor appointment the next morning. After that there was a little mild pain and discomfort for about 5 days, but the pain meds helped. I had to wear an eye patch at night and take a series of drops. I stayed inside for about 6-7 days, more out of choice than necessity, but after 2-3 days I was working on the computer, reading, and doing all the usual stuff. My eye is still just slightly red, and I still use drops twice per day. No one is fully sure how much of my sight I'll get back in the eye but the doctor states that it takes 6 mos. to a year to know exactly the result of the surgery. But I just wanted to tell you--unlike the above posts--that my vitrectomy was literally a piece of cake!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 8:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That's wonderful that you didn't have to have a facedown recovery, Marita.

The special equipment is chairs or devices that go on the bed so that you can rest your head in a facedown position but also breathe, would be something like a massage table with a hole for your face.

Thanks for your reply. Best wishes for continued recovery of your vision.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 9:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

socks - hated to be voice of doom and gloom! But in desperation I had posted same question on a pet forum I frequent and a lady in Ottawa had just been caregiver for her mother sho basically told me the possible horror stories so I would be prepared and was! marita as very lucky not to have to assume the position. Some people go in not planning to have the gas bubble but end up having to have it and then need to scramble for the equipment. Re the 3 days in face down, that sounds much better, but remember, my husband thought he wouldn't need the surgery for at least a year or 2 - but at 3 month check-up his eye had deteriorated to extent that surgery was scheduled for the next cycle - 2 months away - if not, the surgeon was afraid he would 100^ for sure lose the sight in his left eye. I am sorry you are the patient - women make better caregivers than men (in most cases!) - I know for sure that had I been the patient my husband would have gone to coffee shop 100% certain that I would obey the rules - whereas he couldn't be trusted. Yes, you can walk in bent over position to bathroom etc. - it is just being in the correct bent over position. Hopefully you can see out of your other eye well enough to watch TV etc. Since my husband can't boredom was worse. As far as sleeping goes, he can fall asleep standing up - I am the insomniac here. Nothing knocks me out. I meant to mention the sunglasses that you can buy to wear over your regular frames. You may know of them already. The lady in Ottawa told me about them and now I see them on so many people. You need to have your regular glasses with you as that will determine the size you will need to buy - it isn't based on your face/head size. They really help with the light issue blazing in your eyes - and many people get them as well after cataract surgery. I bought my husband 2 pair just in case. I expect that like him you will need to go for checkups every 3 months or so to determine how you are doing. Re the equipment, yep, I would get everything. Hopefully, in your case your surgery will be as minor as it can be. I guess I am grateful that he didn't need to have the Buckle - I read all about that. There are a couple of good Vitrectomy sites - I deleted them unfortunately since I became such an unwilling expert. I will watch this forum to see how your eye situation develops!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i'd never heard of this procedure, so looked it up... neither site mentions the aftercare! but just in case you'd like to learn...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not sure which maladies require vitrectomy. Would it be to relieve "retinal membrane"? I have developed a retinal membrane and will likely face surgery for it in a few years.

ps: To see a description of sugery for retinal membrane, go to

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, I've been researching and will continue, but to hear from people who have been through it really helps a lot too.

As I understand it, I have a macular hole in the back of my eye. When they insert an air bubble into the eye and the patient "assumes the position," the bubble presses against the hole or partial hole, and over a period of time it causes the hole to close up or at least improve.

I have a dr. appt. in 7 weeks to take more pictures of the retina to see if it is getting worse. I'm worrying in advance, I guess. She took time to tell me about the vitrectomy, so I believe there is a good possibility that it will be necessary.

Thanks Susan for the link. WEBMD is really good.

Jemdandy, I don't know about retinal membrane, but my dr. did say the words "epiretinal membrane," so maybe that's your condition too.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Socks, my sister-in-law had this surgery in December. She had the gas bubbles and only the equipment involved was the eye patch she wore for about at week and a orange wrist band that she had to wear. The wrist band was to warn anyone that she was not to be allowed on an air plane because of the gas bubbles. She was out Christmas shopping a few days after the surgery wearing her eye patch.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:17PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Am I the only one?
Am I the only one who isn't able to see *any* snow-free...
Today is "Crayola Day!"
History of Crayola
Amazing Aunt Audrey
Tuesday's Trivia Quiz
ATOMICJAY was the first to get the right answer. GEORGYSMOM...
It is that time here. There are snakes everywhere....
ravencajun Zone 8b TX
Sponsored Products
55" Emeigh Acrylic Freestanding Tub
Signature Hardware
Fantail Antique White One Light Table Lamp
$153.00 | Bellacor
Blue Silk Shade 3x5x4.25 (Clip-On)
$29.91 | Lamps Plus
Square Black Granite Stone Bathroom Vessel Sink - KIAMA SHADOW
Surpass Side Table in White
$379.00 | LexMod
Hand Knotted Wool Made In A Village 5'x3' Red Veg Dyed Persian Balouch Rug P1036
$74.00 | BH Sun Inc
Cruiser Dishtowel Set
$9.99 | zulily
Glass Square Cover Framed with Crystal Flush Mount
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™