Definition and Overview
Eye surgery follow-up is a part of post-operative care provided by an eye surgeon or other eye specialists following a surgical operation performed to correct conditions that affect the eyes or any of its parts.
Although common eye problems can be treated and managed by different specialists including general practitioners and optometrists, eye surgeries can only be performed by an ophthalmologist.
An ophthalmological surgeon is a professional who has completed at least four years of training with around three years on core subjects and a year of subspecialty training. He has also completed a residency and a fellowship for surgical training and has passed the board certification. As eye issues can be very complex and specific, ophthalmology itself is divided into many subfields such as corneal disease, refractive errors, laser surgery and age-related diseases such as presbyopia or macular degeneration.
Over the last few years, eye surgery has incredibly become more advanced that many procedures are performed on an outpatient basis with a very short downtime and fast recovery. Nevertheless, since the eyes are one of the most sensitive organs in the body, regular and timely follow-up is essential immediately after surgery and weeks to years after that.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
One of the main objectives of an eye surgery follow-up is to monitor the possible risks and complications of the procedure, which may include bleeding, swelling and infection. Although rare, it’s also probable that the patient will suffer from blurry vision and even blindness. Many of the surgical-related complications appear quickly and in some cases, they can be progressive. Thus, follow-up may take a while to be over.
The follow-up is also necessary to assess the outcome of the surgical procedure. Since surgeons are well trained in the field, usually, the results are good and are satisfactory to both the patient and surgeons. However, there are instances when the outcome isn’t. During the follow-up, the surgeon can decide whether the patient requires more surgery or another form of treatment to achieve the desired outcome. If what’s necessary is already beyond his ability or expertise, the surgeon may refer the patient to another specialist.
Moreover, the follow-up can be helpful to evaluate the overall health of the eyes, especially if the patient has a progressive or chronic eye disease, or a non-modifiable risk factor such as age and conditions like diabetes.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Even before the surgery, the patient is informed about the follow-up and why it is a crucial part of post-surgery care. If the procedure is complex or risky, the surgeon will meet with the patient within 24-48 hours after surgery to check if there are complications such as infection. The surgeon can then evaluate when the patient can be discharged.
If the surgery is simple, the patient may be discharged within one to two days. The surgeon may then see the patient again after a few days or a week.
For the first couple of months, the follow-up appointments will be more frequent. They are normally held once a week within the first month followed by once every three months. Depending on how the patient is progressing and the severity of the condition that was treated, follow-up care may extend to up to one year. Those who experience surgical complications or considered high risk (e.g., aging patients and those with diabetes) may have to see their eye surgeon more often.
During the follow-up, the surgeon:
- Performs different eye tests to determine if there are no vision problems or complications; the tests can also be helpful in diagnosing worsening or new conditions.
- Recommends further treatment and medication if necessary
- Conducts referral for other complementary therapies or medical approaches
- Counsels the patient on how to improve and hasten recovery
- Educates the patient on better eye care
- Reviews outcomes and expectations
The follow-up may take 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Usually, if there’s no difference between the previous and present follow-up results, the process is shorter.
To facilitate easy, quick, and smooth follow-up, medical records should be constantly updated and the patient should be encouraged to participate in the discussion by sharing concerns that may directly or indirectly affect his or her eyes.
Possible Risks and Complications
If the surgery turns out well and the patient doesn’t develop any problem or complication, he may ignore future follow-ups. This can be a potential problem since the surgeon will not be able to track his progress. Thus, it is important that surgeons are able to emphasize that surgery guarantees only the treatment of the disease and that it doesn’t prevent the same or another eye condition from developing in the future. With follow-ups, the surgeon will be given an opportunity to monitor eye health and spot and treat conditions and other visual problems before they become complicated or even irreversible.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology Retina Panel. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Diabetic retinopathy. 2012. Available at: www.aao.org/ppp.