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Can You Have Cataract Surgery After Vitrectomy?

Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Medically Reviewed by Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Fact Checked
5 sources cited

Last Updated

One of the potential complications of vitrectomy is the formation of a cataract, particularly in people ages 50 and older.

Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that removes your eye’s vitreous gel, often to better access and repair the retina in the case of retinal detachment, to treat lesions on the macula, or to remove scar tissue.

Cataracts can only be fully treated through cataract surgery, which replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). It is possible to have a cataract surgery after vitrectomy.

There are additional possible risk factors for cataract surgery after vitrectomy. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery if you have had vitrectomy.

Cataracts After Vitrectomy

woman with cataract

Cataracts most commonly form due to age as the proteins in the eye break down, start to clump, and lead to clouding of the lens. Other factors can be involved in the formation of cataracts too, such as trauma to the eye and intraocular surgery such as vitrectomy.

The incidence for formation or progression of nuclear sclerotic cataracts is increased after vitrectomy. This is a safe and effective procedure, but it does lead to cataract formation or progression in many patients.

When Can You Have Cataract Surgery After Vitrectomy?

There is not a specific amount of time you should wait to have cataract surgery after undergoing vitrectomy. The timing should be based on individual consultation with your doctors. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends giving your eyes at least three months to heal from one eye surgery before committing to a second operation if possible.

Complications After Vitrectomy

If you have had vitrectomy, the gel in your eye has been changed. Saline is not as viscous as vitreous gel.

Vitrectomy surgery can make your anterior chamber deeper sometimes requiring slight modification of surgical techniques to account for this.

The change in anterior chamber size can require some adjustments in IOL calculations when planning the IOL power. It is also possible that in rare cases the support structures of the lens have been damaged during the vitrectomy. This can result in the IOL being in a different position in the eye or needing to be sutured in place.

Postoperative Cataract Surgery Risk Factors Following Vitrectomy

Cataract surgery can be effective and successful after vitrectomy when considerations are made during the operation and close watch is taken postoperatively. Having cataract surgery after vitrectomy does increase potential complications and risk factors, depending on why the vitrectomy procedure was performed.

If vitrectomy was done to fix macular problems, cataract surgery can raise the risk for cystoid macular edema. You may need to be monitored closely and take anti-inflammatory drops for a longer period of time after surgery.

If vitrectomy was performed to repair a detached retina, there is a slightly greater chance of a future recurrent retinal detachment after cataract surgery however, since the vitreous gel has been removed from the eye this not always the case. It can take longer for your eyes to heal after cataract surgery than the traditional timeline of a few weeks.

Talk to your doctor about the safety and potential prognosis for your cataract surgery after vitrectomy. Typically, it is best to wait until cataracts are interfering with your daily life before having them surgically removed.

References

  1. What Are Vitrectomy Surgery Risks? (April 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  2. What Are Cataracts? (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  3. Surgery for Post-Vitrectomy Cataract. (December 2013). Cochrane Database System Review.
  4. Cataract Surgery Can Be More Challenging After Vitrectomy. (October 2010). Ocular Surgery News.
  5. What Is a Safe Waiting Period to Have Cataract Surgery After a Vitrectomy for a Detached Retina? (July 2014). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

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