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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.

What is a retinal detachment?

The retina is the inner layer at the back of your eye. The retina captures the light coming into your eye and sends 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.

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, including a general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic that is injected around your eye to numb it. The operation usually takes about 90 minutes.

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

Retinal detachment surgery can involve the following techniques.

  • Removing the jelly part of your eye and replacing it with air, gas or silicone oil to help keep the retina in place (vitrectomy).
  • Stitching a small piece of silicone rubber (scleral buckle) onto the surface of your eye to press the wall of your eye inwards and keep the retina in place.
  • Injecting a bubble of gas into your eye to float the retina back into place, and the following day using freezing treatment or a laser to fix the position (pneumatic retinopexy).

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication

Specific complications of this operation

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

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the next day.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. It is important to keep still for the first few days. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

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

Most people make a good recovery.

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


A retinal detachment is a common problem 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. Medical Illustration Copyright ©

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 2021

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