Retinal detachment surgery

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 peel off (detach) causing your vision to be blurred or a shadow to develop in your vision.

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?

1. General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

2. Specific complications of this operation

  • 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.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

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.

Paying for your operation

Retinal detachment surgery costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

Acknowledgements Author: Dr Brian Fleck MD FRCSEd FRCOph This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Copyright © 2008 EIDO Healthcare Limited The operation and treatment information on this website is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by BMI Healthcare. The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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