Trabeculectomy: Before Your Surgery

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Eyeball and optic nerve

What is a trabeculectomy?

Trabeculectomy (say "truh-BEK-you-LEK-tuh-mee") is surgery to treat glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease. It occurs when the nerve that connects the eye to the brain gets damaged. This damage is often caused by extra pressure in the eye. Over time, this pressure can lead to vision problems.

This type of surgery is one way to lower the pressure in the eye. It is sometimes called glaucoma filtration procedure.

First, the doctor puts numbing medicine in your eye. Then the doctor uses special tools and a microscope to make a cut in the white part of your eye. This cut is called an incision. Next, the doctor removes a tiny piece of your eye and makes an opening for fluid to drain out of your eye. Then the doctor closes the incision with stitches.

After surgery, tissue rises over the new opening to make a little blister or bubble on the surface of your eye. This is called a bleb. Extra fluid from your eye will go from the opening into the bleb. Then it gets absorbed by the thin cover on the outside of your eye. You will not feel the fluid. And in most cases, the upper eyelid covers the bleb and it can't be seen.

You may get medicine to make you sleep during the surgery. Or you may be awake, but you will get medicine for pain. The surgery will take about 30 to 90 minutes. You can expect your eye to feel better each day. But it may take 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal.

This surgery may prevent your vision from getting worse. You may also be able to take less glaucoma medicine than before. To make sure that the bleb works well, you may need to see your doctor many times after surgery.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take 30 to 90 minutes.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.