Pneumatic retinopexy is an in-office method of repairing certain types of retinal detachment. It relies on an injection of a small amount of medical-grade gas into the vitreous cavity in the center of the eye. The gas bubble floats in the eye, and it can be positioned against the retinal tear responsible for the retinal detachment by having the patient hold his or her head in a certain position. This positioning prevents fluid from passing through the retinal defect, allowing the detachment to resolve. The bubble also presses the tear flat against the wall of the eye, and laser therapy or cryotherapy then produces a strong bond between these layers.
After placement of the gas, the patient must maintain the appropriate head position for 1 to 2 weeks to allow maximum gas-retinal hole contact. The intravitreal gas spontaneously dissolves several weeks after its placement, at which time the retina should be permanently reattached. Patients with a gas bubble in the eye cannot travel at high altitude due to the risk of gas bubble expansion and severe elevation of the intraocular pressure.