Removal Surgery

Pterygium Removal Surgery Brisbane

Pterygia is a common yet harmless eye condition; however, if a pterygium is causing chronic redness and irritation, interferes with vision or changes suspiciously, you may require pterygium removal surgery.
A pterygium (pronounced ter-ig-e-um) is a fleshy, triangular growth of the conjunctiva, or the thin, clear membrane on the surface of the eye. Sometimes referred to as a “surfer’s eye”, it develops commonly in people who are frequently exposed to bright sunlight and wind. Thanks to our sunny climate, pterygia is quite common in Australia, with one in every 100 Australian developing a pterygium at some point in their lives. In particular, it is most common in people aged 20 to 40 and are more likely to affect men. Usually, a pterygium will grow from the inner corner of the eye, although in some cases, it may grow from the outer corner or on both sides of the eye simultaneously. One or both eyes may be affected. Although a pterygium is a benign growth, it can permanently disfigure the eye and cause discomfort and blurry vision. If left untreated, a pterygium may begin to grow across the cornea. In such cases, pterygium eye surgery may be necessary.
While it is not entirely known what causes a pterygium, sunny, dusty, and sandy environments are considered contributing factors. In particular, pterygia are far more common amongst population groups that live near the equator and in people who spend a lot of time outdoors in hot, dry, windy conditions. High exposure to UV rays is considered the most common trigger of a pterygium. There is also evidence that suggests that there is a genetic predisposition to developing a pterygium. If pterygia run in your family, you may develop a pterygium, even if you do not have a lot of exposure to UV light. Your risk of developing a pterygium also increases with age; children, for example, rarely develop the condition. Additionally, having fair skin and light eyes may also increase your risk of getting a pterygium. Any of the above factors could lead to you developing a pterygium at some point in your life.
Luckily, there are measures that you can take to prevent the development of a pterygium. This mainly includes protecting your eyes from exposure to UV rays by wearing good-quality sunglasses as recommended by your optometrist when outdoors. Be sure to select sunglasses that meet the Australian standard and have an eye protection factor of at least nine or ten. You can also protect your eyes from both the sun and the wind by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
A pterygium can be described as a pink, fleshy, triangular-shaped growth of tissue. In some cases, fine blood vessels may often be visible. Many people with mild pterygia may not experience any physical symptoms, meaning that the condition can sometimes go unnoticed for years or be dismissed as a general eye irritation. However, as a pterygium progresses, it may begin to spread across the cornea and cause more noticeable symptoms, including:
  • Inflammation
  • Bloodshot whites of the eye
  • Irritation, or a burning sensation on the surface of the eye
  • Mild eye pain
  • A sensation that something foreign is in the eye
  • Redness
  • Changes in vision

If you begin to experience any of the above symptoms, please get in touch with the Valley Eye Specialists in Brisbane to determine whether you may benefit from pterygium removal.

Since a pterygium is a growth of the eye, it can usually be diagnosed on appearance alone. During your appointment, your ophthalmologist may use a special microscope that magnifies the view of the eye in order to confirm your diagnosis. Usually, no other tests are required. If you think that you may have a pterygium, please get in touch with the Valley Eye Specialists in Brisbane, who can diagnose your pterygium and determine an appropriate treatment plan.

What is the treatment for a pterygium?

People may choose to have their pterygium removed for three main reasons: the condition is threatening the central cornea, the pterygium is chronically irritated and inflamed, or the patient is unhappy with the way it looks.
The treatment options for a pterygium can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms. In mild cases, symptoms of a pterygium can be managed with simple eye drops or ointments that help to lubricate and soothe the cornea. For severe inflammation, your Valley Eye Specialist may prescribe a short course of steroid eye drops. Of course, these treatment options only ease pterygium symptoms and are not a cure.
If a pterygium is causing chronic redness and irritation, interferes with vision or changes suspiciously, pterygium removal surgery may be the best treatment option for you.

What is the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for PTERYGIUM
surgical technique?

At our ophthalmology practice, we use the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for PTERYGIUM surgical method for all removal procedures. This technique was developed by Professor Lawrence Hirst, a trained corneal surgeon who has conducted extensive research into pterygium for over 20 years.
Traditional pterygium removal surgery is associated with a high recurrence rate, which means that the condition may grow back, despite surgery efforts. The P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for PTERYGIUM technique involves carefully removing the pterygium before replacing it with a piece of membrane taken from another area of the eye’s surface. Not only does this technique improve the cosmetic results of surgery, but it has also reduced the recurrence rate from ten to 15 percent to less than one percent.
As a minimally invasive procedure, pterygium eye surgery requires minimal preparation. Your Valley Eye Specialist will provide you with general pre-operative instructions that may include fasting before surgery and not wearing any contact lenses for at least 24 hours before the procedure. Another thing to keep in mind is that you will not be able to drive after surgery due to the light sedation, so you will need to arrange alternative transportation to and from the clinic.

Pterygium removal is a relatively simple, quick procedure that takes less than an hour to complete. You can expect your pterygium eye surgery to comprise of the following steps:

Firstly, your Valley Eye Specialist will administer a light anaesthetic and numb your eyes to ensure your comfort during the procedure. They will then clean the eyes and the surrounding areas to prepare them for surgery.

Once prepped, your ophthalmologist will surgically remove your pterygium, as well as any associated conjunctiva tissue. Then, once your pterygium is removed, they will replace the resultant defect on the eye’s surface by retrieving a large graft of membrane tissue from another area of the eye. This step is designed to prevent the pterygium from recurring. To complete your procedure, your Valley Eye Specialist will reconstruct the treated area to create the best possible cosmetic outcome.

Our technique vs traditional techniques

“With conventional surgery, there is always a chance that your pterygium will return. Our technique has a recurrence rate that is 100 times lower than that of conventional surgery, so you can be confident that your pterygium is 100 times less likely to return.

What can I expect during my pterygium surgery recovery?

Following your pterygium removal, your ophthalmologist will cover your eye with a sterile patch in order to prevent infection and ensure your comfort. You may need to wear this patch for up to three weeks. After surgery, it is critical that you do not rub your eyes, as this can dislodge the attached tissue.
After your anaesthetic has worn off, it is normal to experience some eye pain, especially when blinking. This can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. In addition, you may notice some double and blurry vision, redness, and blood-tinged tears in the first days after pterygium surgery. However, any worsening of symptoms should be reported to your ophthalmologist immediately.
We suggest that you take one to two weeks off work after your pterygium eye surgery. You can expect your total recovery time to be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. However, your Valley Eye Specialist will give your comprehensive recovery and aftercare instructions, including how to clean the area, which antibiotics to take and when to return to the practice for a follow-up visit.

Are there any risks involved with pterygium
removal surgery?

All surgical procedures have risks, including pterygium removal. However, complications are infrequent, and your ophthalmologist will go through them with you before your procedure. Some of the potential risks to be aware of include:
  • A one in 400 chance of developing a cyst, proud flesh, or infection, which may require further surgery.
  • A one in 500 chance of developing persistent double vision, which may require surgery on the eye muscle.
  • A one in 500 chance of the graft tissue not settling in and needing replacement.
  • A one in 1000 chance of developing drooping eyelids, which could require further surgery.
A one in many thousands chance of permanently losing useful vision.

Why Valley Eye?

At Valley Eye, our specialist ophthalmologists strive to provide personalised, exceptional ophthalmic care for infants, children, and adults alike. Specially trained in the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for PTERYGIUM procedure, our specialists can help you achieve the best functional and cosmetic outcome. If you suspect that you may have a pterygium, please get in touch to visit one of our ophthalmologists at our Brisbane practice.

Valley Eye Specialists
Meet Our Ophthalmologists

Dr Camuglia is a General Adult and Paediatric Ophthalmologist with subspecialist fellowship training in …

Dr Jayne Camuglia


Dr Dai is an experienced Paediatric Ophthalmologist and Strabismus Surgeon, and is the current Director of Ophthalmology …

Associate Professor Shuan Dai


Dr Pappalardo began her medical studies at the University of Queensland School of Medicine …

Dr Juanita Pappalardo


Dr Richa Sharma is an experienced General Ophthalmologist with subspecialty fellowship training in Paediatric Ophthalmology …

Dr Richa Sharma


Born in country Queensland, Dr Jaclyn White was raised and educated in Brisbane. She commenced her tertiary studies at QUT …

Dr Jaclyn White


Professor Gole is an experienced Paediatric Ophthalmologist and Strabismus Surgeon, who holds …

Professor Glen A Gole