Pneumatic retinopexy is an effective
surgery for certain types of
retinal detachments . It is usually an
outpatient procedure done with
retinopexy, the eye doctor (ophthalmologist) 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 eye doctor then uses a freezing probe (cryopexy) or laser
beam (photocoagulation) to seal the tear in the
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 and the extra fluid that had been in your eye.
What To Expect After Surgery
Recovery from pneumatic retinopexy
takes about 3 weeks. The local anesthetic affects only the eye and wears off
The hardest part of the recovery is keeping the gas
bubble in the right place until a seal forms around the tear in the
- You must keep your head in a certain
position for most of the day and night for 1 to 3 weeks after the
- You cannot lie on your back or the bubble will move to the
front of the eye and press against the
lens instead of the retina.
- Airplane travel is dangerous,
because the change in altitude may cause the gas bubble to expand and increase
the pressure inside the eye. Avoid air travel until your eye
has healed and the bubble is gone.
Contact your doctor right away if you notice any signs of
complications after surgery, such as:
- Decreasing vision.
- Increasing redness.
- Swelling around the
- Any discharge from the eye.
- Any new
flashes of light, or changes in your field of
Why It Is Done
The location and size of a tear in
the retina determines whether pneumatic retinopexy can be used. Pneumatic
retinopexy can be useful when:
- A single break or tear caused the
- Multiple breaks are small and close to each
- The break is in the upper part of the retina.
The break must be in the upper half of the eyeball for
pneumatic retinopexy to be practical. You have to be able to position your head
so that the break and the bubble are at the highest point. If the break was on
the bottom of the eyeball, you would have to stay upside down during your
recovery, which would not be practical.
How Well It Works
retinopexy reattaches the retina most of the time.
Chances for good vision after surgery are higher if the
macula was still attached before surgery. If the
detachment affected the macula, good vision after surgery is still possible but
The most frequent problems from pneumatic
- Scarring on the retina, called proliferative
vitreoretinopathy (PVR), which often causes the retina to detach again. This is
the most common cause of failure in surgery for retinal detachment. PVR usually
requires additional treatment, including surgery.
- Formation of new
breaks and tears.
- The need for more than one surgery to reattach the
- Fluid persisting under the retina or being absorbed only
- Small bubbles of the gas becoming trapped underneath the
Although they do not occur very often, other complications
- The detachment spreading into the
macula and affecting
- An increase in pressure
inside the eye, which can lead to glaucoma.
- Bleeding in the
vitreous gel (vitreous hemorrhage) or under the retina
(subretinal hemorrhage). This is very rare.
Cataracts may form after surgery.
What To Think About
Pneumatic retinopexy can be
done on an
The success of pneumatic
retinopexy depends on keeping the gas bubble against the retina until it
flattens. This will require you to hold your head and eye in the proper
position for long periods of time. Do not have the procedure if a medical
condition or other situation will make you unable to stay in the right
position for the time required.
There are a
few ways to repair a retinal detachment. The chance that each surgery type can
help restore good vision varies from case to case. The cause, location, and
type of detachment usually determine which surgery will work best. Other
conditions or eye problems may also play a role in the
need more than one surgery to reattach the retina if scar tissue from the first surgery grows over the surface of your retina.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Carol L. Karp, MD - Ophthalmology
Current as of
||July 15, 2013