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Retina - What is a pneumatic retinopexy for retinal detachment surgery?

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Pneumatic retinopexy is an effective surgery for certain types of retinal detachments. It uses a bubble of gas to push the retina against the wall of the eye, allowing fluid to be pumped out from beneath the retina. It is usually an outpatient procedure done with local anesthesia.

During pneumatic retinopexy, the eye doctor injects a gas bubble into the middle of the eyeball. Your head is positioned so that the gas bubble floats to the detached area and presses lightly against the detachment. The bubble flattens the retina so that the fluid can be pumped out from beneath it. The eye doctor then uses a freezing probe cryopexy or laser beam photocoagulation to seal the tear in the retina.

The bubble remains for about 1 to 3 weeks to help flatten the retina, until a seal forms between the retina and the wall of the eye. The eye gradually absorbs the gas bubble.

A variation of this surgery uses a large bubble of silicone oil instead of a gas bubble to close and flatten the retina. A vitrectomy procedure, in which the vitreous gel is removed, is required to inject silicone oil. Because the silicone oil cannot be absorbed, a second procedure is needed to remove the oil after the retinal detachment has healed.


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