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Trabeculectomy (tra-BEK-you-lek-toe-me) is a common type of glaucoma surgery that reduces eye pressure symptoms. Your glaucoma surgeon may recommend it for treating open-angle glaucoma, closed-angle glaucoma, and other forms of the disease.

In a trabeculectomy, a tiny portion of spongy tissue (trabecular network) is removed to allow extra eye fluid to filter out. The fluid gathers under the eyelid and forms a tiny blister (or bleb) that empties as the body absorbs the fluid into the bloodstream.

After surgery, patients do not feel the blister and it is not noticeable to other people. As fluid drains through this new path, inner eye pressure decreases. This helps protect the optic nerve from further damage, but will not restore vision already lost.

What to Expect During a Trabeculectomy

This kind of glaucoma surgery is performed in a hospital or outpatient surgery center. Most often you will be able to return home the same day. You may be tired and have a patch over your eye, so plan to have someone to come with you and drive you home.

Before the surgery, you are given a dose of medicine through an IV (a needle inserted in your hand), and eyedrops are placed in the eye to numb it. These medications help you relax and not feel pain. It also is possible that you may have full anesthesia and sleep during the procedure.

First, you receive eye drops with antibiotics and other medicines to help your eye heal. The glaucoma surgeon then looks through a microscope and makes a small cut in the front of your eye and removes a tiny portion of the trabecular network to make a path for fluid. Next, that area of the eye is stitched up and additional eye drops are given. Your eye may be taped shut and a patch placed over it. The area around your eye may feel sore.

Your glaucoma surgeon will tell you how to care for your eye as it heals. This includes using eye drops and taking drugstore pain relief medicines if needed. You may be told not to rub your eye, read, drive, bend over, or do hard exercise for several days.

Wear the patch on your eye and use eye drops as prescribed by the surgeon. At night, you may have to wear a plastic shield over your eye when you sleep. A follow up visit will be scheduled for the next day. Please be sure to keep all your follow up appointments. Preserving your eyesight depends on seeing your glaucoma specialist and following instructions carefully.

Your doctor will talk to you about a glaucoma management plan to keep your inner eye pressure at safe levels. You may need to use glaucoma medication regularly, even after the surgery.

In our next blog, we discuss another type of glaucoma surgery called standard laser trabeculoplasty (tra-BEK-you-low-plas-tee) or SLT.

The goal of this series of weekly blogs is to help you feel informed and confident, wherever you are in learning about glaucoma.

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