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Doctors often instruct patients to lie face down after a certain type of eye surgery called a vitrectomy. During this type of eye surgery, the vitreous humor (or vitreous gel) is removed from the middle of the eye. Vitrectomy surgeries are often performed to treat macular holes and retina detachments, as well as other macula or retina damage.
Figure A. The basic anatomy of the human eye.
After the surgeon removes the vitreous gel and completes the necessary repair of the eye, they inject a gas bubble into the eye to replace the removed vitreous gel. The bubble holds the retina and/or macula in place at the back of the eye while it heals. In order to keep the bubble in the correct location, the patient has to keep the head in the face down position.
Figure B. The eye with inserted gas bubble when standing or sitting in the upright position. The bubble floats incorrectly in this position and the eye may not heal correctly.
The gas bubble floats, and as the patient changes position so does the gas bubble. Because the healing process requires the gas bubble to be pressing against the back of the eye, it is extremely important that the patient maintain the face down position.
Figure C. The eye with inserted gas bubble in the face down position. The bubble floats in the correct position and applies pressure to the back of the retina which aids the healing process.
Doctors will provide patients with specific instructions regarding the length of time the patient must remain face down after the surgery. This usually ranges from one to two weeks, but varies depending on the surgery and the patient. Increased comfort during this face down recovery period is likely to improve the patient's chance of successfully healing, as the patient will be more likely to maintain the face down positioning. A variety of specially designed equipment is available to rent or buy to make the patient's recovery period more comfortable.
The bodyCushion™ is a carefully designed, high-quality orthopedic positioning system that can help patients recover at home comfortably. The bodyCushion™ can be used to keep the face parallel to the floor when seated or lying down.
Anatomy Illustrations by Halle Riddlebarger
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