A Detached Retina – Surgery at Sydney Eye Hospital

Part of the About Your Eyes series – this film contains information about your eye condition and what happens if you need surgery.

Produced by Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation to help you and your family to better understand the experience.

Narrated by Noni Hazlehurst

What is a detached retina?
How can surgery help?
Will I be awake during surgery?
When can I go home?
Will I be able to see better?

These questions and more are answered in a short film about eye surgery at the Sydney Eye Hospital. Featuring animation explaining how the eye works and actors modelling patients as they step through the process of having surgery.


A detached retina is a serious and urgent condition.

To understand why it helps to know how the eye works.

Light travels through the cornea and is focused by the lens onto the retina.

A fine layer of tissue at the back of the eye.

The retina contains thousands of light receptors that capture the detail of what we see.

The biggest concentration of receptors lie here in the macula at the centre of the retina.

We use the macula for reading and seeing detail.

The retina is kept in place with the help of a clear sticky fluid called vitreous which fills our eye.

With age or injury, the vitreous peels away from the surface of the retina and can tear a hole in it.

Once torn fluid can seep under the retinal tissue lifting it away from the wall of your eye.

This is called a detached retina.

You may experience flashing lights or other disturbances in your vision like floaters.

If left untreated the retina will continue to detach causing a blind patch to creep across your vision.

This can cause permanent loss of vision.

Surgery to re-position the detached retina is the only solution, and this should be done as soon as practical.

So, what happens on the day of your surgery?

A great deal of care is taken to make sure that the information about you is.
accurate and up-to-date.

You may be asked more than once about your medical history and what medications you’re currently taking.

Eyedrops are used to dilate your pupil, this gives the surgeon a clearer view inside the eye.

Your eye will be marked to alert medical staff when preparing for your surgery.

You will need an anaesthetic.

Most eye surgery is done under local anaesthetic.

That is an injection or drops are used to numb the area around your eye.

Before this a sedative is given to help you relax.

You may feel drowsy, but you will remain conscious, however you should not see or feel anything during the operation and may not remember it either.

The surgeon uses a microscope to see into the back of the eye.

Surgery to reattach the retina can normally be done in about one hour.

First the surgeon will remove the vitreous in your eye.

This is called a vitrectomy.

Then the retina is pushed back into place with a gas bubble.

Tears or holes are repaired using laser therapy.

A silicon band may be placed around the eye.

After surgery you’ll be taken to a recovery ward while the sedative wears off.

You will remain in hospital overnight.

If you have gas in your eye you will need to lie face down to allow the gas bubble to rest against the retina.

An eye shield will protect the eye from accidental injury.

Following surgery, you will attend a clinic at the hospital here the doctor or their team will check the position of the retina.

They will give you eye drops to prevent infection while your eye is healing and an information sheet on how to care for your eye.

You will wear a wristband while the gas remains in your eye.

The band alerts others if you have a medical emergency and reminds you not to undertake air travel in this period.

It’s difficult to know how successful the surgery has been until the eye heals.

Sometimes multiple surgeries are necessary to fix the retina in place.

There is an increased risk of developing a cataract following retinal surgery.

This may require cataract surgery sometime in the future.

The Sydney Eye Hospital performs thousands of sight saving surgeries each year.

The hospital is supported through the fundraising initiatives of the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation in the interests of providing quality eye care for all.

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