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Surgery for Macular Degeneration

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2024 | Last updated: June 2024

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that is the main cause of vision loss in older adults, particularly those over the age of 50. The condition is not curable and tends to progress over time.1

Treatments for macular degeneration can help to slow the progression of the disease, preserve your existing vision, and reduce the risk of more severe vision loss. Depending on the kind of macular degeneration you have, treatment options can vary.

Surgical options

Along with assistive devices and medications, surgery is a potential treatment for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and myopic macular degeneration. Laser surgery is an option for certain people with wet AMD, but there are also more involved surgical options that retinal specialists may consider for people with severe disease. These operations may include submacular surgery and retinal translocation.

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Different people respond differently to various kinds of treatment, and invasive surgery is generally reserved as a last resort when medical and/or laser treatments have failed. Talk with your doctor about what treatment options might be right for you.

Submacular surgery

Submacular surgery involves the removal of lesions of abnormal blood vessels, scar tissue, and any abnormal bleeding from under the retina. It was thought that the removal of these lesions might help slow down or stop visual impairment in certain people with wet AMD and myopic macular degeneration. However, studies found that people who underwent submacular surgery did not achieve stability or improvement in vision after the procesure.2

Surgical techniques can vary widely among surgeons, and each person may respond differently to surgery. If your AMD does not respond to other treatments, your doctor may suggest submacular surgery as an option.

Retinal translocation

Retinal translocation is a surgical procedure that detaches a segment of the retina (which may include the macula) from an unhealthy part of the eye and places it in a healthier part of the eye. It is only a treatment option for wet AMD and works best in the earlier stages of the disease when the retina has not been significantly damaged.3

Surgical results can vary, with some people experiencing improvement in their vision and others remaining the same or even worsening. Long-term effects in those who have had the surgery have been positive for some, with visual function being maintained for longer periods of time post-operatively.4

Overall, there are mixed results regarding whether this surgery can significantly improve vision for those with wet AMD, especially when there are various other treatment options available.5

A consideration after other options have been exhausted

Surgery for macular degeneration is often considered if other treatment options have been exhausted and nothing has helped. In cases of myopic macular degeneration, you might want to talk with your doctor about non-surgical treatments first.6

If your macular degeneration is not responding to other treatments, talk with your doctor about whether surgery is right for you and your type of macular degeneration.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.