The Surgical Procedure for Strabismus
Unless otherwise specified, all procedures will be performed under general anesthesia. You will meet the anesthesiologist on the morning of the scheduled surgery.
After the anesthesia is administered, the eyelids are gently opened and the muscle is identified. No skin incision is made. A small incision is made in the thin white tissue (conjunctiva) overlying the muscle. The muscle is then separated from the eye and reattached in a new position using dissolvable sutures. The eye is never opened or removed. Your physician will always be the primary surgeon, but will often have other surgeons assisting in the procedure.
Length of Surgery
After the surgery begins, most surgeries take between 30 minutes and 2 hours to complete. Family members should not be concerned if it seems like it is taking a long time, as this typically means that there was an unrelated delay in the start time for the surgery.
Risks of Surgery
There are rare risks associated with general anesthesia. Although rare, diminished brain function, pneumonia or death can be associated with general anesthesia. Risks of the surgery include loss of vision, bleeding, retinal detachment or infection, but these complications are highly unusual.
The eyes may not be straight following the surgery and prism glasses or another surgery may be required. Bleeding under the conjunctiva giving the eye a red appearance for a week to a month, abrasion (scratch) to the cornea, reaction to the sutures, pain, or scar formation including cyst formation can occasionally occur. Not every possible complication can be listed here. If you have specific questions, please ask your physician, who will be happy to answer them for you.
Alternatives to Surgery
Alternatives to surgery include prism glasses or Botox injection. Your physician will be able to advise you on whether they are appropriate for you.
If an adjustable suture was used, the adjustment will be performed one to two hours following surgery while you are in the recovery room, prior to discharge home.
When you are awake, numbing drops are placed in the eye to numb the surface and the suture may or may not be adjusted to fine-tune the alignment. This adjustment is typically not painful, but patients can sometimes feel anxiety, pressure or minor discomfort while the sutures are repositioned. The eyes are often left in an overcorrected position on purpose because as the eyes heal in the weeks following surgery, they usually drift slightly back in the direction they were prior to surgery. This intentional overcorrection can produce temporary double vision that typically lasts less than one week.
You will usually be discharged home within a few hours following surgery and your physician or a member of the staff will call you at home the day after surgery.
Care at Home
Pain medication is rarely necessary after discharge, but some patients find Tylenol helpful for minor discomfort. You will be discharged with a prescription for an eye drop or ointment, or a combination of an antibiotic and steroid. These medications are used to help prevent infection and help the eyes to heal with less scarring. Unless you are told otherwise by your physician, you can restart all of your pre-operative medications, including aspirin, following surgery.
You should avoid swimming pools for one week following surgery. You may otherwise resume normal activity as soon as you feel up to it.
If significant post-operative swelling or discomfort occurs, you can reduce the swelling by applying ice packs to the operated area for 10 to 20 minutes every hour in the evening after you are discharged. A zip-lock bag filled with frozen peas often works better than ice because the peas conform nicely to the eye socket and the bag reduces any mess as the peas thaw. You should generally avoid wearing contact lenses for 1 to 2 weeks following surgery.
The more extensive the surgery, the longer the recovery period will be. The eyes will remain red for 1 to 2 weeks following surgery, and this redness may not completely disappear until after several months. Sometimes, a small, dark “bump” on the white portion of the eye can be seen; this is the adjustable suture and typically dissolves in 6 to 8 weeks.
You will be seen for a follow up evaluation one week following surgery. The final alignment may not be known for 1-2 months following surgery.
There are generally 3 bills that your insurance company will receive following your treatment:
1. Surgeon’s fee
2. Anesthesiologist fee
3. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary fee that covers all facility, equipment and service charges