Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Retinal detachment surgery

5-minute read

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), usually because of a tear. This causes 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 and your retina from detaching again.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Sometimes the tear or hole can be treated without any surgery, by using a laser, with freezing treatment or by injecting gas into your eye.

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 one of more of 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).

How can I prepare myself for the operation?

Keeping in the same position

Before the operation your surgeon may ask you to keep in a certain position such as lying flat on one side. This may help to prevent more of the fluid from collecting under the retina and making the problem worse.

If the operation is performed under a local anaesthetic, you will need to lie still and flat during the operation. If you cannot lie still and flat, let your surgeon know.

Your face will be covered with a cloth to allow your surgeon to work on a clean surface. Air will be blown gently towards your nose. If you are claustrophobic (afraid of being in small spaces), let your surgeon know.

Lifestyle changes

If you smoke, stopping smoking will improve your long-term health.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.

Speak to the healthcare team about any vaccinations you might need to reduce your risk of serious illness while you recover. When you come into hospital, practise hand washing and wear a face covering when asked.

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

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

Specific complications of this operation

  • heavy bleeding inside your eye
  • raised pressure in your eye
  • the retina becoming detached again
  • development of a cataract
  • double vision
  • inflammation in your other eye

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain

How soon will I recover?

You are expected to go home the same 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, or if you need surgery to remove a cataract.


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 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Retinal detachment -

Retinal detachment (detached retina) is a medical emergency when the retina becomes separated from the inside of the eye.  Warning signs include a sudden increase in floaters or flashes. Seek immediate medical attention. This could save your sight.

Read more on myDr website

Retinal detachment - Better Health Channel

If a detached retina is not treated, it can lead to total blindness.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Glossary of Eye Conditions | Fred Hollows Foundation

Glaucoma, Cataract and Trachoma are just a few examples of many eye conditions and diseases that exist worldwide. Learn more with a list of common eye conditions and terms.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Floaters: tiny particles in the eye -

Floaters are tiny clumps of debris suspended in the eyeball. They cause visual disturbances, such as specks or tiny threads that float across your vision.

Read more on myDr website

Sore eyes -

Conjunctivitis is the most common cause of sore eyes. Find out about conjunctivitis and symptoms that indicate a more serious eye problem.

Read more on myDr website

Eye floaters - Better Health Channel

Some eye floaters look like small dots, while others appear like threads or little hairy clumps.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Thyroid eye disease -

Thyroid eye disease occurs in people with thyroid disease and is characterised by inflammation, swelling and eventual scarring.

Read more on myDr website

Eye anatomy -

View this anatomical diagram of the eye, showing the eye structure, including the pupil, iris, cornea, retina and optic nerve.

Read more on myDr website

Contact lens care -

Find out the different types of contact lenses, how to care for them and tips on handling contact lenses.

Read more on myDr website

Eyes - common problems - Better Health Channel

You can help prevent dry eyes and minimise the risk of tired or sore eyes while reading or using a computer.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.