Strabismus Surgery

Eye showing muscle moved. Eye showing muscle cut.The eye doctor may recommend strabismus surgery to help align your child’s eyes. During surgery, certain eye muscles are adjusted. This helps the muscles better control how the eye moves. Often, surgery is done in addition to other treatments. In most cases, children who have strabismus surgery go home the same day.

How surgery works

Strabismus surgery is a safe, common procedure. The eye doctor simply changes the placement or length of an eye muscle. This small change can pull the eye into proper alignment. The 2 most common methods of surgery are:

  • Recession. A muscle is moved to a new position on the eye.

  • Resection. Part of an eye muscle is removed.

Before surgery

Prepare your child for the procedure as you have been instructed. In addition:

  • A few days before surgery, your child may have an eye exam so the doctor can double-check eye measurements.

  • Follow any directions your child is given for taking medicines and for not eating or drinking before surgery.

On the day of surgery, your child:

  • Can wear favorite pajamas and bring along a toy.

  • Will be given medicine (anesthesia) that makes him or her sleepy. Surgery won’t start until your child is asleep.

After surgery

Each child reacts to surgery in his or her own way. Some children may be afraid to open their eyes at first. Children are often sleepy or cranky for several hours after surgery. If your child’s response worries you, talk to the eye doctor. After surgery your child:

  • May have a red eye. This will go away after several weeks.

  • Will most likely not need any pain medicine. Recovering from strabismus surgery is not painful for most children.

  • May still need other treatment, such as glasses or an eye patch.

When to call the doctor

Call your child’s eye doctor if:

  • Your child’s eyelid is very swollen.

  • A pus-like discharge comes from the eye. (A few bloody tears are normal.)

  • Your child vomits more than once.

 Also call the doctor if your child has a fever, as directed by his or her healthcare provider, or:

  • Your child is younger than 12 weeks and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Your baby may need to be seen by his or her provider.

  • Your child has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C) at any age.

  • Your child is younger than 2 years old and the fever lasts for more than 24 hours.

  • Your child is 2 years old or older and the fever lasts for more than 3 days.

  • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever.

Risks and complications

As with any surgery, strabismus surgery has risks. These include:

  • The eyes not being perfectly aligned. Some children need more surgery to adjust this.

  • Bleeding in or around the eye

  • Eye infection

  • Risks of anesthesia (the eye doctor can tell you more about these)