Enucleation and Evisceration Surgery
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between evisceration and enucleation surgery for
removal of the eye?
Enucleation and evisceration are two procedures used to remove an eye. With
enucleation, the whole eyeball is taken out. In evisceration, the clear front part of the
eye (cornea) and the contents are removed, but the tough white coat of the eye (sclera) is
kept. In both enucleation and evisceration surgery, an implant is put in the eye socket to
help replace most of the eye. The recovery after surgery is also almost the same for both
operations. An artificial eye (prosthesis) is made by an ocularist about 8 weeks after the
What basically happens during the surgery?
Enucleation and evisceration are done under general anesthesia or deep sedation. In
enucleation, the whole eye is removed, and the eye muscles are reattached to the implant.
In evisceration, the front part of the eye and the contents of the eye are removed. An
orbital implant (Figure 1) is placed in the socket to replace most of the eye. In either
surgery, the soft tissue layers are then closed. A plastic shell, or conformer (Figure 2), is
placed behind the eyelids, and the eyelids are often stitched together for a short time.
Figure 1. Silicone and porous orbital implants Figure 2. Plastic Conformer
Should I expect pain after surgery?
Pain is different for everyone. It is usually taken care of by resting, icing, and avoiding
strenuous activity that could increase pressure in the socket. You will also take pain
medicines. The first 2-day period is often the most uncomfortable, with gradual
improvement over the following week. If the pain becomes worse, or causes significant
nausea or vomiting, contact the office or doctor on call to ask whether you need to be
seen sooner than your scheduled follow up appointment.
I understand there will be a large dressing for 3-4 days after surgery.
How do I take care of the socket after the dressing is off?
The taped dressing (Figure 3) may get pink or red from light bleeding in the first few
days but should not be removed or changed. This bandage keeps pressure on the socket to
keep down swelling and bleeding. Ointment is not needed while the pressure dressing is
in place. The eyelids may also be sewn shut for a short time (Figure 4). These sutures will
be removed at your next visit. Once the bandage has been taken off (usually on the 4th
morning after surgery) the lid tissues may be cleaned gently with warm, wet compresses
to remove dried blood and crusting.
Figure 3. Postoperative pressure dressing Figure 4. Eyelids may be sewn closed
When do I start the eye ointment?
Ointment is usually placed in the socket at the end of surgery. It does not need to be re-
applied until the dressing is removed. After the bandage has been removed, a small strip
of ointment can be placed in the socket (or on the eyelashes if the lids are sewn shut) with
a clean finger or cotton-tip applicator, usually 2-3 times a day.
What does the eye socket look like after surgery?
At first, the socket will be swollen and bruised. As the socket heals, the tissues will
become less swollen and red, and the sutures dissolve on their own. The round (spherical)
implant helps fill up the socket so that it does not look like a cavity or hole. If the lid is
lifted, the socket will be a fairly even pink tissue all over (Figure 5). You may cover the
socket with gauze if you wish, but this is not necessary. Some patients choose to buy and
wear a black eye patch until their artificial eye (prosthesis) is made. The upper lid may
also be droopy until the final prosthesis is made.
Figure 5. Healthy pink socket after surgery
What activities can I do after surgery?
Avoid strenuous activity for one week after surgery or until you see your doctor. This
includes bending, exercising, sports, and lifting more than 15 pounds. Any activity that
increases your heart rate a lot soon after surgery may cause bleeding/hemorrhage or
increased swelling in the socket. This may slow healing or risk the final outcome.
What should I do if the clear conformer falls out after surgery? If I
can’t get it back in, is it okay to leave it out?
The clear conformer (Figure 2) placed at the time of surgery is not custom fit to your
socket. It may occasionally fall out after surgery. If the conformer falls out, it should be:
1. Gently cleaned with regular soap and water only. Do not use cleaning
chemicals or alcohol swabs.
2. Hold the conformer, which is a clear oval disk, sideways.
3. Place the conformer gently under the upper lid until it stops.
4. Hold it in place and use your other hand to pull the lower lid edge down and
over the bottom edge of the conformer. Once the lower lid lashes come
around the bottom of the conformer, it will fit back in the socket.
If you cannot replace the conformer back in the socket, it can be left out. Please call the
doctor’s office to see if you need an appointment. Do not worry if the conformer falls out.
This is not an emergency.
When do I get fitted for the artificial eye (ocular prosthesis) and how is
The artificial eye, the prosthesis (Figure 6), is usually fitted about 8 weeks after the
surgery in order to allow swelling to go down. You should schedule the appointments
with your ocularist’s office before your surgery. An ocularist is a professional medical
artist trained in fitting and creating ocular (eye) prosthetics. Three appointments, for
fitting your first prosthetic, are usually scheduled two days in a row. During these visits,
the customized prosthesis will be molded and painted to best match the other eye.
Figure 6. Custom made ocular prosthesis (front and back views)
How does the prosthesis fit in the socket?
Because the artificial eye is custom made for your socket it should fit without any
adhesives or other devices. It simply goes behind the upper and lower eyelids like a large
thick contact lens. The ocularist may often mark the top of the prosthesis to help you
when putting it in the socket.
How do I take care of the prosthesis? Do I need to clean it every day?
If the artificial eye fits well and is comfortable, it is often better to leave it in and not take
it out every day. It does not need to be cleaned daily. If necessary, warm water and
gentle soap or baby shampoo should be used. Please ask your ocularist about the general
care of the prosthesis. You should know that your artificial eye will need to be replaced
every 5 to 8 years, and more often for children. Your ocularist will also need to clean and
polish it every 6 months to a year.
Will I be able to drive eventually?
Most patients, who have lost sight in one eye and have good vision in the other eye, will
eventually drive. Driving shorter distances and during the daytime will be a good start.
On the other hand, those who have lost an eye usually do not feel comfortable operating
heavy machinery or commercial vehicles, because of a smaller field of vision and less
Other resources that may be useful:
A Singular View: The Art of Seeing with One Eye (Paperback) by Frank B. Brady
Thank you for placing your trust in our team at UW Health. If you have more questions,
please let us know or call our office at (608)263-7171.
Cat Burkat, MD, FACS Mark Lucarelli, MD, FACS
Associate Professor Professor
Oculoplastic, Facial Cosmetic, and Orbital
Oculoplastic, Facial Cosmetic and Orbital
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
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