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Laser Trabeculoplasty

A photo of an ophthalmologist performing laser surgery.
The procedure can usually be completed within ten minutes.

What it is:

Laser trabeculoplasty is a surgery to treat glaucoma by improving the eye's natural drainage system.

What You Can Expect:

Your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) can perform this surgery in his or her office or outpatient center.

Who Is a Good Candidate:

If your glaucoma medications cannot lower eye pressure enough, your Eye M.D. may recommend laser surgery.

In-Depth Information:

What It’s For How It Works Risks All

What It’s For

A clear liquid called aqueous humor circulates inside the front portion of the eye. In open-angle glaucoma, this liquid does not flow efficiently through the eye's sponge-like drainage system (known as the trabecular meshwork). When this liquid fails to drain properly, pressure builds within the eye.

The medical term for this pressure is intraocular pressure. Such pressure inside the eye may damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Laser trabeculoplasty is one procedure that may help lower intraocular pressure.

How It Works

A laser makes tiny, evenly spaced burns in the trabecular meshwork, the area of the eye responsible for draining the aqueous humor. The laser does not create new drainage holes but appears to stimulate the drain to function more effectively.

The procedure is performed in your ophthalmologist's office with an eyedrop anesthetic and can usually be completed within ten minutes. Since eye pressure is monitored after surgery, the total office time required may be two to three hours.


There is usually little pain associated with this laser procedure and few complications. A few people experience increased eye pressure shortly after laser trabeculoplasty. Patients often continue taking glaucoma medications after laser trabeculoplasty.

Laser trabeculoplasty effectively lowers eye pressure 75 percent of the time, but it may not be a permanent solution.

Nearly half of the people who receive laser trabeculoplasty have increased eye pressure again after five years. For people who have had a successful laser trabeculoplasty, it may be repeated with a lesser pressure-lowering effect.

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