Also known as a vitrectomy / peel, an epiretinal membrane peel is an advanced procedure used to remove scar tissue over the central part of the eye’s retina (also known as the macula). Epiretinal membranes affect your vision by exerting traction on the macula, distorting it or causing it to swell. This can lead to blurred vision or distortion of the vision, where straight lines can be warped or curved.
Epiretinal membrane peeling is considered to be one of the most delicate procedures in modern medicine, and requires an additional two years of subspecialty training after a general ophthalmology residency. During the procedure the vitreous gel is first removed from the eye to allow access to the back of the eye. Our retina specialist then uses a pair of extremely fine forceps under maximal magnification to grasp and gently peel the membrane away from the retina. The instruments used for this procedure have become much smaller over the past decade and now are barely larger than the needles used for a flu shot. Therefore in the vast majority of cases no sutures are required given the small size of the access ports, resulting in minimal discomfort during recovery. Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Adatia use the smallest instrumentation currently available in North America.
The surgery is performed at Rockyview Hospital, and you will not need to stay in the hospital after your surgery. It is recommended that a friend or family member accompany you to the hospital on the day of your procedure. You will have a patch on the operated eye and will be unable to drive afterwards. The patch will be removed the day after your surgery on your post operative day 1 visit with your retinal specialist. In almost all cases the surgery is performed using local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia, although general anesthesia is available as an option.
Typically patients are seen 1 day, 1 week, and 1 month following their surgery. During the first two weeks after surgery there are a number of activities that are not recommended. These include driving, any activities requiring lifting more than 10 lbs, or getting water in your eye (including while bathing). Avoid any activities that would require bending at the waist. You should also avoid reading, using computers or mobile devices. Watching TV is ok, provided it is from a distance of 6 feet or more. Activities performed at a distance require far less eye movement or strain compared with activities done within arms length. Traveling by air during the first month after surgery is strongly discouraged. In some circumstances an air bubble may be intentionally left in the eye during the surgery to facilitate healing. In these circumstances, air travel is absolutely contraindicated until the air bubble has disappeared.