Pneumatic retinopexy is an office-based technique for certain types of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment occurs when the retina becomes separated from the back wall of the eye, usually due to the development of tears in the retina. This causes patients to experience shadows and vision loss. Prompt and thorough treatment is required to prevent permanent vision loss. Pneumatic retinopexy involves a bubble of gas that is positioned over the retinal tear(s), allowing for fluid to be pumped out from beneath the retina to repair the detachment.
The pneumatic retinopexy procedure is performed in the office under a local anesthetic. Your doctor will inject a gas bubble into the eye. Cryopexy (freezing treatment) or laser treatment may be used to seal the tear at the time of the gas injection or shortly thereafter. The bubble remains in the eye for between 2 to 8 weeks on average, to will help flatten the retina before being spontaneously absorbed.
After this procedure, it is critical that patients keep their head in a certain position for most of the day for about one week. Your doctor will let you know what the ideal position should be, as this depends on the exact location of the retinal tear(s) that caused the detachment. This allows the gas bubble to continue to apply pressure to the retinal tears until the cryopexy or laser treatment has taken full effect and sealed the tears. Most patients experience effective results after one treatment, although some may require additional procedures.
Although pneumatic retinopexy is considered safe, there are certain risks associated with this procedure, including infection, formation of new tears or detachment, increased eye pressure and bleeding in the vitreous or retina. If the pneumatic retinopexy fails to fix the retinal detachment, patients may require vitrectomy and/or scleral buckling for definitive repair.