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Prosthetic Eye Plastic Surgery


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After eye removal surgery, a prosthetic eye (sometimes referred to as a glass or synthetic eye) can help create a natural appearance, while at the same time protecting the new space formed through the procedure. The experienced oculofacial plastic surgeons at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System, take pride in helping our patients feel more at ease after eye removal surgery.

The prosthesis is a custom-made oval acrylic shell resembling your normal eye. Fine details such as the iris color, pupil size, and even tiny vessels on the eye are incorporated to restore a natural appearance.

Our team will fit your prosthetic eye about five weeks after surgery for eye removal. This timing is needed to allow all tissue swelling to resolve. A specialist, called an ocularist, makes the ocular prosthesis. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has an ocularist working on-site to provide this service. Most people prefer a prosthetic eye over wearing a patch or bandage because it often looks very natural, and most people are not able to tell the difference between your prosthetic and natural eye.

Sometimes the eye socket develops problems after removal of the eye. Those problems can include drooping of the lower eyelid, a deep, hollow appearance to the lids, and scarring of the interior lining of the socket making it difficult to wear a prosthetic eye. Our surgeons can perform surgeries to address these problems, and permit the patient to enjoy a comfortable, cosmetically pleasing, and natural appearance.

Who is a Candidate?

If you have had your eye removed for some reason, you may be considering getting a prosthetic eye implanted to feel more comfortable with your appearance.

What to Expect

After your surgeon removes your eye, he or she will place an orbital implant – a sphere that is placed deep into the socket. This implant replaces the volume lost from removal of the eye. Most of these implants are made of a synthetic material called porous polyethylene or hydroxyapatite. Some are made of acrylic plastic. The surgeon may elect to wrap the implant with a material such as eye-bank (cadaver) so the prosthetic eye moves more naturally. The muscles that control movement of the eye are usually attached to the implant, which gives you as much movement of the artificial eye as possible.

The implant is then covered by your own tissues, and a clear thick contact lens (conformer) is placed at the time of surgery. A large pressure patch is placed over your eye for about one week. It should remain dry. Your doctor will remove this patch during your first post-operative visit, and then you will be instructed to use a prescribed antibiotic ointment between the eyelids every day. When you look at the socket, it will appear pink like the lining of your mouth.

The clear conformer stays in place for about four or five weeks, until it is time to make the prosthetic eye. This clear conformer can sometimes fall out on its own during this time. This is not an emergency. Simply call the surgeon’s office the next day, and an appointment will be made to have the conformer replaced in the socket.

Once your surgery has healed and all swelling has resolved, an ocularist (expert in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses for people who have lost an eye) takes an impression of your eye socket to give your prosthesis the perfect fit, and paints the prosthesis to match as closely as possible your normal remaining eye. This process may take several days.

Your eye socket may continue to change shape after surgery. Additional fitting and adjustment of the prosthesis may be necessary for weeks, months, or years following initial placement. A new ocular prosthesis is needed about every five years, as the acrylic material eventually breaks down, and changes occur in the tissues and volume of the socket.

You should visit your ocularist and oculofacial surgeon every six months to have the prosthesis checked, cleaned, and polished, and to have the tissues behind the prosthesis checked to be sure there is no infection or inflammation of the socket. Good maintenance is the key to having a healthy comfortable socket with excellent cosmetic appearance for many years. Talk to your ocularist if you have questions about ways to continue to improve the fit and make it more comfortable.

Why Choose Bascom Palmer Eye Institute?

Ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is the top-ranked facility in the country for the treatment of diseases and disorders of the eye, according to U.S. News & World Report. When you choose us for your eye care, you will receive the best care in the nation in a compassionate setting.

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