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What are Shunts?
Our Jacksonville area retina treatment centers offer patients the latest procedures to treat glaucoma. Board-certified ophthalmologists, Dr. John Sullivan and Dr. Shawn Agee, use shunts to help treat this common eye condition.
Tube-shunt surgery involves placing shunts, which are thin, flexible plastic tubes, along with a drainage pouch, into the eyes to treat glaucoma and various eye issues. Glaucoma treatment often involves placing shunts to drain the eye of fluid, which causes increased pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure). This fluid is known as aqueous humor, which is the fluid that gives the eye its shape. When cells and tissues from the retina and other structures of the eye spread to the fluid, it can cause vision problems. Draining the liquid can help restore vision, including decreasing the presence of floaters and improving central vision and vision acuity (sharpness).
Shunt surgery is also useful after a previous trabeculectomy proved unsuccessful to treat glaucoma. In this surgery, a small hole is made in the eye wall to drain excess fluid to relieve pressure. Shunt surgery is also used to treat scar tissue on the eye caused by previous surgeries.
What to Expect
A patient can be given a local anesthetic or be put under general anesthesia during outpatient tube-shunt surgery. A patient might also be injected with antibiotics prior to the surgery to reduce the risk of infection. The flexible tube is made of silicone or polypropylene since these materials are generally safe and tolerated well by the body. The shunt, which is similar in shape to a computer mouse, is implanted into the eye with an attached tube. While the tube is positioned in the front of the eye, the “computer mouse” portion is positioned on the eyeball, which is covered by the eyelid. The collected fluid is absorbed by the veins in the eyes and exits through the eye cavity.
Immediately after surgery, the patient is given antibiotics that are applied directly to the eye or injected under the eyelid’s lining. After the procedure, the eyelid is typically taped closed and a protective eye shield is put over the eye. Even though this is typically an outpatient surgery, pediatric patients may be required to stay overnight, along with some adults, as determined by the surgeon. A patient will usually have his or her first follow-up appointment a day after surgery and can expect between 2 and 5 appointments in the 6-week period following.
To reduce inflammation of the eye, corticosteroid medications are applied to the treated eye for approximately 1 – 2 months following surgery. The patient will need to avoid activities that can put undue pressure or stress on the eye. Shunt surgery is successful for about 50% of patients and can reduce eye pressure, as well as prevent the progression of vision loss and blindness.
Shunt surgery is a newer procedure that has been shown to be safe and effective for many patients who suffer from glaucoma and other eye conditions. If you would like to learn more and find out if you would be a good candidate for this surgery, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.