Understanding Trabeculectomy

Trabeculectomy is a type of eye surgery done in the front part of the eye. It’s done to treat glaucoma by draining some fluid from the eye. This helps to lower pressure inside the eye.

What is glaucoma?

The area in front of the colored part of your eye (iris) is full of fluid. Normally this fluid slowly drains out of your eye through a network of tiny channels. It drains out into the veins of your body. This helps keep the amount of fluid in the eye steady.

If you have glaucoma, fluid can drain too slowly. This can cause the pressure in your eye to increase. This then increases pressure on the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends visual information to your brain. If the pressure increases too much, it can damage your optic nerve. This can cause vision loss. During a trabeculectomy, a surgeon makes a new opening for fluid to leave the eye.

Why trabeculectomy is done

You might need this procedure if you have glaucoma that isn’t controlled with eye drops or laser treatment. Without treatment, over time glaucoma can cause a loss of side (peripheral) vision. Central vision may decrease too. Together this can cause total blindness.

Your eye care provider may advise a trabeculectomy to help keep your glaucoma from getting worse. But it doesn't restore vision that is already lost. Trabeculectomy is a possible treatment for all types of glaucoma.

How trabeculectomy is done

During a trabeculectomy, the eye is numbed. The surgeon removes a small piece of tissue from the eye. This lets the fluid bypass the normal channel out of the eye.

Cross section of eye showing trabeculectomy.

Risks of trabeculectomy

All surgery has some risks. The risks of trabeculectomy include:

  • Tearing of the conjunctiva

  • Tearing of the sclera (this is rare)

  • Too much bleeding

  • High pressure inside the eye

  • Low pressure inside the eye

  • Bleeding into the eye

  • Eye infection

  • Cataract

  • The surgery doesn't work

  • Need for a repeat surgery

Your risks may vary according to your age, your overall health, and other factors. Talk with your eye care provider about all your concerns and about the risks that apply to you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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