Glaucoma Implants

If medication and surgery fail to lower intraocular pressure, your doctor may suggest an implant as a way to enhance standard glaucoma surgery. By positioning a device to keep the surgically-created drainage opening from healing and closing down, the surgeon is able to help decrease eye pressure by increasing outflow of fluid from your eye. Many current implants include a tube through which the aqueous fluid passes. Other implants are solid and promote the flow of fluid along the surface of the implant. Regardless of the type, all implants have the same goal—to increase outflow of fluid and decrease intraocular pressure.

Several thousand implants are used in the United States each year. Most of these are performed on what may be considered the more “complicated” glaucomas including cases of congenital glaucoma, glaucoma associated with diabetes or glaucoma following injury to the eye. In implant surgery, most of the device is positioned on the outside of the eye (toward the back) under the conjunctiva. Regardless of the particular implant used, fluid drains into the back end of the implant and is naturally reabsorbed by blood vessels. Although the implant is a foreign body, and there can be an inflammatory reaction immediately following surgery, stabilization usually occurs within 4–6 weeks.

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