What is the Baerveldt Shunt?
The Baerveldt shunt is a glaucoma drainage device that is implanted into the eye to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) by draining aqueous humor fluid. Aqueous humor is not the same as tears — in patients with glaucoma, the buildup of aqueous humor fluid causes high intraocular pressure (IOP) that can damage vision.
How Does It Work?
The Baerveldt shunt works to drain aqueous humor fluid from inside the eye to a small fibrous capsule (often called a bleb) behind the eyelid. Continuous draining of the fluid reduces pressure on the optic nerve and can prevent further loss of vision.
What Happens During the Procedure?
Your eye surgeon will place a tiny silicone tube into the front of the eye. The tube is attached to a plate, which is placed under the skin of the conjunctiva (the transparent membrane over the white of the eye). The plate is positioned under the upper eyelid and is not visible to the naked eye. A stitch is needed either outside the tube or threaded through the tube, to prevent the shunt from draining fluid too quickly in the first few weeks of surgery.
A fibrous capsule or bleb is formed several few weeks after surgery. The aqueous humor can then drain through the shunt to the bleb. Once the shunt is draining successfully, the fluid in the bleb is absorbed into the capillaries and lymph system and dissipates into the body.
Where Will My Doctor Do The Procedure?
Baerveldt shunt surgical procedures are usually done in our outpatient eye surgery center, where patients receive local anesthesia to make them comfortable. The surgery typically takes 1-2 hours.
How Successful is the Baerveldt Shunt?
The success of the procedure depends on each patient’s condition and eye anatomy. Success rates for the Baerveldt procedure have been reported in the 70-80% range after 5 years, and many patients achieve long-lasting results.
These rates are higher than for some other aqueous shunt procedure types because the Baerveldt plate size covers a larger surface. Many patients can eliminate their prescription eyedrops altogether following surgery, while others are able to maintain a healthy IOP with lower dosages. Your Long Beach eye surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits of the Baerveldt shunt glaucoma surgery with you.
What are the Complications?
- Inflammation and redness occur right after surgery. This is normal and usually resolves in 4 to 6 weeks.
- Eyelid drooping may last for one or two months.
- Hypotony, or very low IOP (under 6 mm) can damage vision.
- Elevated IOP’s often occur before the bleb is fully functional and draining properly.
- Clogging of the shunt or too much scarring around the implant.
- Corneal injury (very rare).
Who Should Have This Procedure?
In the past, glaucoma drainage devices were used for patients whose previous surgery had failed (refractory glaucoma). With more experience and research, many glaucoma specialists recommend the Baerveldt shunt procedure to patients in the following categories:
- trabeculectomy surgery has failed
- high risk of failure for trabeculectomy
- glaucoma caused by diabetes or other neovascular diseases
- glaucoma related to uveitis
- trauma-induced glaucoma
Baerveldt Shunt Surgery, Long Beach, CA
Not sure if a Baerveldt shunt is right for you? That’s where we come in. The experts at Eye Physicians of Long Beach, CA specialize in state-of-the-art glaucoma treatment. Contact us to discuss your candidacy for this life-changing procedure!