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Retinal Detachment Surgery

This webpage 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 the eye that changes light coming into the eye into images that are sent to the brain. Sometimes the retina can detach causing your vision to be blurred or a shadow to develop in your vision (see figure 1).

Retinal Detachment

Most retinal detachments are caused by the jelly, that fills the centre of the eye, shrinking and pulling on the retina. A retinal detachment can also be caused by an injury or previous eye surgery.

What are the benefits of surgery?

If the operation is successful, it should stop your vision getting worse.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

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

What does the operation involve?

A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible including a general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic. The operation usually takes between an hour and a half and two and a half 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 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

  • Severe bleeding inside the eye
  • Raised pressure in the eye
  • The retina may become detached again
  • Reduced vision
  • Double vision
  • Inflammation in the other eye

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the following day.


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


You should go to your optometrist (optician) for an eye test two to three months after your operation as you will usually need new glasses.


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


Author: Mr Anthony King MD FRCOphth

Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM


This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.



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