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When the vitreous gel becomes opacified or filled with blood, the retina may detach from scar tissue pulling on it. Standard retinal detachment procedures cannot be used in such cases and the ophthalmologist may recommend a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy is a microsurgical procedure that involves making one or more incisions into the side of the eye and, with special instruments, removing the blood-filled vitreous material and scar tissue. The vitreous may be replaced with a clear solution, air or gas to keep the retina in place at the back of the eye. Eventually, clear fluid from the blood flows into this space to fill it permanently. Occasionally, in complicated cases, silicone oil must be injected into the eye to reattach the retina. This oil is usually removed a few months after the operation. Vitrectomy may be used in conjunction with other retinal detachment procedures, but generally it is reserved for complex retinal detachments that cannot be repaired by more conventional means.
Vitrectomy is an eye operation and carries the same risks as any surgery. Patients need to wear an eyepatch to protect the eye and use medicated eye drops to prevent infection for a short period after surgery.