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Retinal detachment surgery

3-minute read

This page will give you information about retinal detachment surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What is a retinal detachment?

The retina is the inner layer at the back of your eye that captures the light coming into your eye and send this information to your brain. Sometimes the retina can peel off (detach) causing your vision to be blurred or a shadow to develop in your vision.

Illustration showing a normal, torn and detached retina.
a A normal retina, b A torn retina, c A detached retina.

Most retinal detachments are caused by the jelly that fills the centre of your eye shrinking and pulling on the retina.

A retinal detachment can also be caused by an injury to your eye or previous eye surgery.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to prevent your vision from getting worse.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Sometimes the tear or hole can be treated without any surgery, using a laser or by freezing treatment.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Your surgeon can repair any tears or holes using a laser or by freezing treatment.

Retinal detachment surgery can involve removing the jelly and replacing it with air, gas or silicone oil, or stitching a small piece of silicone rubber onto the surface of your eye.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection

Specific complications

  • heavy bleeding inside your eye
  • raised pressure in your eye
  • the retina may become detached again
  • reduced vision
  • double vision
  • inflammation in your other eye

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the next day.

Do not swim or lift anything heavy until you have checked with your surgeon.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Your surgeon will tell you if new glasses will improve your vision.

It may take some time before your vision starts to improve.


A retinal detachment is where the inner layer at the back of your eye peels off. Retinal detachment surgery should prevent your vision from getting worse.

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2018

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