Detached Retina

Detached Retina

Retinal Tears, Retinal Holes

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Duke retinal specialists diagnose and correct retinal tears and holes as early as possible, before the small breaks lead to retinal detachment, which may require immediate surgery. Our retinal specialists are on call to respond immediately to emergencies, and our dedicated eye operating rooms are always available to treat retinal detachments. We also have the advanced training, skill, and expertise to treat complex problems such as abnormal scar tissue known as proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) that can sometimes arise following retinal detachment surgery. Our goal is to accurately and quickly diagnose your retinal condition to maximize your visual outcome.

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Seeking Care for Retinal Detachment

New floaters and flashers may be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment, especially if they suddenly increase in frequency or are accompanied by any loss of vision. If you experience these symptoms, or are at risk for retinal detachment due to nearsightedness, family history, a previous history of retinal detachment, a history of any eye surgery, or a serious eye injury, you need to be seen by an eye specialist immediately. Our specially trained retinal specialists can quickly determine the severity of your condition and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

Our retinal specialists are also experts in treating other common conditions, such as vitreomacular traction, which occurs when the vitreous gel in your eye becomes “stuck” to -- and, over time, pulls on -- your retina. The resulting retinal swelling and decreased vision require advanced care from our subspecialists, who have additional training in retinal diseases.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.



A high-intensity beam of light energy is focused on the retina to weld together a retinal tear.


A freezing probe seals the retinal tear then secures the retina to the eye wall. This outpatient procedure is performed on the outside of the eye and can prevent a retinal hole or tear from progressing to a retinal detachment. Healing takes about 10 days.

Pneumatic Retinopexy

During this office-based procedure, a gas bubble is injected into your eye. Your head and body are positioned so that the bubble pushes the retinal break closed and moves the retina back into position against the wall of the eye. The procedure is often followed by laser or cryotherapy, which secures the retina in its place. Maintaining the appropriate position in the days following the procedure is important to its success.

Scleral Buckle

A flexible silicone band is sewn around the eye in the operating room to secure the retina in place. May be performed in combination with cryotherapy or laser surgery. 


Surgically removes the vitreous gel -- the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of your eye behind the lens -- through tiny incisions. May be performed in combination with other retinal detachment procedures, as it gives your eye surgeon better access to the back of your eye. The vitreous gel will be replaced with fluid, gas, or oil bubble according to your eye’s specific needs.

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A lighted instrument with a special lens provides your doctor with a 3-D view of the inside or your eye. Careful ophthalmoscopy is the most important way to detect retinal tears, holes, and detachments.


Special ultra-wide-field photographs of the back part of the eye can help your doctor see retinal tears or detachments.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

High-resolution scans provide detailed information that may help your doctor assess damage to the retina. 


Noninvasive sound waves travel through closed eyelids. They bounce off your retina and other parts of your eye to create images that help your doctor detect retinal tears, holes, or detachment

Best Eye Hospital in NC
When it comes to your care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital’s ophthalmology program is ranked seventh in the nation and best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Experts in Retinal Tears, Detached Retina, Retinal Holes

Latest Advances in Retinal Imaging
We are one of the few centers in the U.S. to use optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging in the operating room. The technology allows us to visualize the layers of the eye with greater detail and identify subtleties and patterns that guide our treatment recommendations. Our researchers are national leaders using this sophisticated imaging technology and interpreting the results.

High-Volume Referral Center
As a result of our advanced training and skill in handling complex retinal detachments such as proliferative vitreoretinopathy, we receive a high volume of referrals from other providers. We are frequently called upon to help people who have recurrent retinal detachments or other complex problems following previous surgeries elsewhere.

Retinal Surgery Pioneers
The field of retinal surgery was pioneered at Duke by Robert Machemer, MD, the former chair of our ophthalmology department. Many of our senior surgeons trained under Dr. Machemer, who is widely considered to be the “father of vitreoretinal surgery.” Vitreoretinal refers to treatment of the retina, macula, and vitreous fluid -- the fluid that surrounds the eye.

Compassionate, Supportive Environment
We offer patient support services, including educational materials and programs, a low vision rehabilitation program, and a dedicated social worker to help you and your loved ones manage your condition and maximize your quality of life.