Vitrectomy eye surgery can remove floaters. So-called “floater only vitrectomy,” or “FOV” is a comparatively simple procedure compared to other operations a retinal surgeon can perform.
While these are common, most people are able to tolerate them over time. There are, however, patients that have floaters so large and dense that the vision is reduced. (Remember, the acute onset of floaters needs to be checked out to ensure that you don’t have a retinal tear!)
A vitrectomy is part of most surgery performed by a retinal specialist. Usually, however, the vitrectomy is performed to allow repair of a macular hole, removal of an epiretinal membrane (video of vitrectomy and then removal of ERM) or to fix a retinal detachment. The purpose the operation is to remove the vitreous, thus allowing surgery to be performed on the retina.
Floaters reside within the vitreous. Thus, with FOV, these offending “spots” or “cob webs” are removed as the vitreous is removed. The operation is then complete!
Many physicians do not recommend this surgery, but would recommend cataract surgery. This makes little sense. The reasons include hesitation to operate on an otherwise healthy and normal eye, but for some reason this same reasoning does not apply to cataract surgery.
Risks of vitrectomy surgery include blindness from infection or retinal detachment. These risks, however, are the same as having cataract surgery or any other eye surgery. In fact, the risk of infection with this retinal operation is lower than cataract surgery.
Patients interested in cataract surgery choose to do so when the vision is decreased and it interferes with their daily activities and hobbies. Cataract surgery is performed to remove the cloudy lens and restore the vision.
Patients who have decreased vision from floaters can also have their vision restored, when they, too, experience decreased vision and understand the risks of surgery.
In my view, the only alternative is observation, that is, do nothing. There are a few doctors who advertise the use of a laser to break up floaters, but it is usually not covered by insurance, nor are the performing doctors retina specialists.
What Does This Mean? There is hope for those who have decreased vision from floaters.
Most patients have been told, over and over again, that they just have to “live with it.” As long as patients understand the possible complications and are sure that we are dealing with true floaters, the procedure is a possibility. This summer alone I have had several patients travel from around the country seeking help.
For doctors that don’t agree with me, the decision to perform a “floater only vitrectomy” is no different that making the decision to perform cataract surgery. Complications are few and can happen in either case, yet in both instances, the patient sees better.
So why suffer?