Support and Guidance
Recommendations to help patients prepare for recovery and improve their post-surgery experience
Recovery after a vitrectomy can be tedious, boring, and uncomfortable. We are here to see patients through this difficult time as best we can. Our experience has given us great insight into patients' post-surgery experience, and we want to offer as much guidance as possible to soon-to-be patients and their loved ones in order to help educate and prepare them. We hope you find this information useful, and we would be thrilled if you would like to contribute to improving others' experience by telling us about any details of your recovery process (or that of your loved one)!
This page is designed to give helpful hints on how to deal with the vitrectomy surgery and the recovery period following it. Although we have carefully put this document together, we cannot be responsible for any injuries created from these hints and tips. Always consult your doctor before attempting something you feel might be dangerous.
The Operation - What to Expect
Before the Operation:
Before your vitrectomy, macular hole or retinal detachment, make sure you understand the procedure itself. It is crucial to prepare for the operation and the recovery so you will not be surprised by any details or parts of the process later on. Sharing your complete medical history with your doctor is very, very important. Even little things like seasonal allergies have the potential to increase the amount of swelling from the accumulation of fluid in the sinuses. Ask your doctor questions. If you don't understand the answer given the by the surgeon, ask the question again, until the surgeon explains it in a way where you do understand. It is helpful to have written a list of questions down with space for the answers prior to each visit. Do your best not to feel overwhelmed; factually speaking, this is a simple procedure. (For more information about the procedures, click here .)
It is much easier to get your home set up before the surgery, while your life routine is more familiar than it is after the procedure. Prior to your surgery, you should take care of life chores, such as paying bills and doing enough laundry to supply your clothing needs. You may choose to prepare meals that are easily frozen then thawed, such as soups and casseroles. Remember, remaining in the face-down position begins when you leave the operating room. It may not sound fun, but it is very helpful to practice this positioning for a few hours at home prior to surgery to get adjusted to any problems or discomfort in advance. This will allow you to make accommodations to your living space that will better cater to your post-operative needs.
Once you know what will be done during the operation, it is wise to prepare and know about the healing process after the surgery. Having our Facedown Support Systems prior to the surgery is not only smart, but recommended – purchase your equipment as soon as possible. It is far better to have specially designed equipment in your possession a few days in advance than it is to suffer for a few days without it while you wait for the shipment to arrive.
After the Operation:
There might be swelling and tenderness (sometimes also bruising) around the outside of the eye. You may feel pressure at first and expect some pain. Uncontrolled pain may hinder the immune system, which aids healing and fights infection, so keeping your pain under control may be necessary to help you heal faster. "Leaking" from the tear duct is initially uncontrollable and normal, so if you experience this side effect, we advise that you place some tissues near your bed and chair. Because of the adjustment process, many patients experience changes to their sleeping patterns. We suggest that you take periodic naps, so you do not become overly fatigued. Some patients may experience changes in taste, smell, and ability to tolerate noise. Since one eye will be covered, depth perception will be limited, so make sure to take this into account, in order to avoid safety risks. Take steps to structure your living space in a way that is as uncluttered, open, and safe as possible.
Compliance is very important to help avoid complications, especially in vitrectomies. In practice, it is also one of the most difficult things to achieve. Boredom is a common problem, so make sure to have entertaining things handy to occupy the yourself. The things you use most frequently (tissue, snacks, drinks, etc.) should be kept nearest to you, and replacements should also be kept in an easy-to-reach place. Taping lunch bags or grocery bags to the chair and armrest for used tissues will eliminate the need for multiple, space-consuming receptacles. Don't hesitate to ask for and accept help from friends. Expect that there will be good days and not so good days. Don't expect too much of yourself and try to maintain positivity; it truly helps the immune system do its job! Identify what comforts you and do it often. Above all, communicate with your doctor; there are usually solutions to problems you encounter that you had not thought of or don't know.
Eating and Drinking
You should avoid bringing your chin to your chest as you eat, since this may adversely affect swallowing. It is easier to bend more at the waist and less with your neck for comfort while eating. A low TV tray, stool or coffee table will serve as an excellent platform. Prepare softer foods that are easier to chew and swallow with your head down. Keep refrigerated items on the lower shelves and store food on the counters, not up in cupboards, to be easily reached. Do not raise your head to drink. Instead, use a straw. The low table that you use to eat from may also be an ideal place to rest your glass. If you take oral medications that are difficult to swallow, you may need to break them into pieces, or mix them in soft food. They can also be dissolved in apple juice or other liquids.
Bathing and Clothing
It may be easier to take a bath rather than a shower, since your head must stay down. A handheld shower massager can be very useful. Rearrange your soap, shampoo, etc. to a lower level so that you can reach them easily while bathing. During your period of face-down positioning, wear a button-up shirt and avoid sweatshirts, T-shirts, and anything that will need to be pulled over your head. Things that you can easily slip on and off, such as sweatpants, shorts, bath robes, house coats and pajamas are recommended and will make your day easier.
You may need to use a laxative if you are prone to constipation, due to the relative inactivity during this period.
Nighttime and Sleeping
Facing down at night will be the most challenging practice you will have to face. But with a little practice, some patience, and some discipline, you will be able to face down effectively. With the use of only one eye, you may experience changes in brightness. Having a flashlight handy can help you with some "extra" lighting. Your ability to remain face-down while sleeping or awake for extended times depends on how the rest of your body feels. Make sure you are not cluttered on bunched up sheets and that you do not have cold feet; this might annoy and agitate you, causing stress. If you have uncontrollable "leaking" from the tear duct, it is very wise to place tissues near your bed, where it is easily accessible.
If you can sleep face-down before surgery as practice, we recommend doing so. If you feel agitated and uncomfortable, use extra pillows at your sides to help you lay still. A way to help you keep your face down is to tape a tennis ball to the upper back; if you roll over onto it, you'll know it.
Keeping your head down for seven or more days can get boring. It is helpful if you plan ahead. It is useful to move around. Short walks or light exercise is encouraged. Reading results in a rapid eye movements and is discouraged. We have put together a list that we believe contains the best things to do as a pastime activity:
Listen to music, radio, tapes, CDs, etc.
Use your Smartphone or tablet such as iPhone or iPad
Books on tape/CD
Play with hand squeeze toys
Play board games with a partner
Talk on the phone with speaker capabilities
Draw/Paint/Read/Write (With a doctor's permission)
Watch TV/Videos/DVDs (With a doctor's permission), using a 2-way mirror
Knit/crochet/quilt/needlepoint (With a doctor's permission)