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Retinal detachment surgery

Surgical procedures to correct a detached retina and protect your vision

Ophthalmologist explains to a patient that she needs retinal detachment surgery
Your retina is a thin layer of tissue located at the back of your eye, containing millions of sensitive cells that detect vital visual information such as light and colour. Your retina converts this information into signals and sends these to your brain so that you can see. Essentially, it helps your brain paint a picture of your surroundings.

If your retina becomes damaged, it can lead to blindness, so it is important to seek treatment quickly if you know or suspect you have problems with your retina.

One condition that can affect your retina is a detached retina. This occurs when your retina becomes loose and pulled away from its normal position in the back of your eye. The longer a detached retina goes untreated, the more likely it is that you will lose your vision permanently. There are several surgical treatment options available to help repair a detached retina, but one of the most common is a vitrectomy, which we will explain in more detail further down this page.

Symptoms of a detached retina

If only a small part of your retina has become detached, you might not experience symptoms of retinal detachment. If a larger portion has come loose, your vision might be less focused than usual. Other common symptoms of retinal detachment include:

  • Floaters (small dark spots, squiggled lines, or 'specks', that float across your vision)
  • Flashes of light in one or both eyes
  • A dark shadow in the middle of your field of vision

Getting help with Circle Health Group

Living with the symptoms of a more advanced detached retina can be highly distressing. Simple activities like reading, cooking, and even walking can be challenging due to a lack of vision. But retinal detachment can be effectively treated with a variety of surgical treatment options, helping restore and protect your vision so you can return to usual, everyday life without these challenges.

We have a network of dedicated ophthalmologists (consultant surgeons who specialise in the non-surgical and surgical treatment of eye conditions) that can perform your retinal detachment surgery. To find out more, call us directly or book an appointment with a consultant online.

There are several possible causes of a detached retina, which include:


The condition is mostly caused by changes to the gel-like fluid that fills your eye (this is known as the vitreous). The vitreous is full of tiny fibres that help hold your retina in place in the back of your eye. As you age, the fibres that make up your vitreous pull away from your retina (a process known as vitreous detachment), which can lead to retinal detachment if left untreated. These eye conditions usually happen in people over the age of 50.

A direct injury to your eye

A detached retina can also happen as the result of an injury to your eye (a direct blow to your eye) that causes your retina to tear and become detached from its usual position. This can happen in many circumstances, including during contact sports or a car accident.

Eye disease

If you have a different eye disease such as diabetic retinopathy, then you are more likely to get a detached retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can affect people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It causes damage to the blood vessels in your retina, which can lead to retinal detachment and vision loss if not treated early.

Risk factors

Some people are at a higher risk of experiencing a detached retina than others. Risk factors include:

  • A member of your family has had a detached retina (it could be hereditary)
  • You have had eye surgery before, such as cataract removal surgery
  • You already suffer from an eye condition, such as diabetic retinopathy (as mentioned above)

The price of your surgery depends on which hospital you choose, and the kind of surgery you have for your detached retina.

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of surgery and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any pre-surgery diagnostic tests and your consultant's outpatient appointment fee are charged separately.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over one to five years with no deposit required and interest-free options available.

If you have private health insurance, this treatment will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

Your consultant will determine whether you need a treatment for a detached retina by performing a retinal examination. They will use an instrument with a bright light and special lenses to examine the back of your eye, including your retina. This device provides a highly detailed, high-quality view of your whole eye, allowing your consultant to detect any retinal holes, tears or detachments.

Your consultant might also arrange for you to have an ocular ultrasound if they cannot diagnose a detached retina through a retinal examination. This is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a detailed image of your retina and the surrounding structures. It can effectively diagnose a detached retina.

If your consultant confirms you have a detached retina, they will discuss your surgical treatment options and advise which would be the best treatment for you.

Your consultant will give you a good idea of timelines for treatment during your initial consultation, after which they'll put together a fixed-price treatment package based on everything you have discussed together. Once you've agreed to the costs, we can get you booked in to have your treatment at a time that suits you.


The most common surgery for a detached retina is a vitrectomy, which can be performed under either local or general anaesthesia. If you have a local anaesthetic, you will be awake during the procedure, but you won't feel anything, because we will apply local anaesthetic eye drops onto and around your eye(s), which will numb the area being operated on. If you have general anaesthetic, you will not be awake during the procedure.

Your consultant will begin by making three small incisions into your eye, through which they will insert specialist instruments in order to remove the vitreous jelly from your eye. They do this by breaking the jelly apart and gently sucking it out. After the jelly is removed, your consultant will repair and reattach your retina. They will use one of several techniques to replace the vitreous jelly from your eye, because it does not replace itself. This includes inserting one of the following substances into your eye:

  • A gas bubble that absorbs naturally within two weeks
  • A special oil or liquid that is surgically removed at a later date
  • Air (absorbed within 36 hours)
  • A mixture of gas and air

After the gas or air is absorbed (or the special oil removed) your eye produces its own fluid known as aqueous humour, which replaces the function of your vitreous.

A pneumatic retinopexy

During pneumatic retinopexy, your consultant will inject an expanding gas bubble into your eye. They will position you so that the bubble floats over the detached area and pushes it against the back of your eye. Next, your consultant will use a freezing device to seal the retina against the wall of the eye.

Laser retinopexy

This technique uses a laser to create small burns around your retinal tear. This causes scarring, which acts like a barrier and reattaches your retina to your eye, preventing future detachment.

There isn't a huge amount you can do to prepare for surgery on your eyes.

You might be asked to avoid food and drink for up to 12 hours before having surgery. If you're taking blood-thinning medication such as ibuprofen, you might be asked to stop taking it for a few days before having the procedure to prevent bleeding during surgery. It might be necessary to have a general health assessment before your operation to understand whether you are well enough for surgery – your consultant will let you know whether this is needed and arrange for you to have a test as soon as possible before surgery.

Your healthcare team will ensure you know exactly how to prepare for surgery, so there won't be any unanswered questions along the way.

You can usually return home within a day of having surgery, but you will need someone to drive you home while your eyes recover.

Your consultant will ensure you return home with a list of detailed instructions on how to care for your eyes at home. This will include how to use eye drops with antibiotics to help prevent any infection and reduce inflammation in your eye. You should avoid getting your eyes wet in the shower for up to two weeks after surgery - especially with shampoo. It is completely normal for your eye to be swollen, red, or tender for several weeks after surgery, so you might need to take traditional painkillers to prevent this. You might also need to wear an eye patch for a day or so to avoid straining your eyes.

You should expect your vision to be blurred for up to six weeks after surgery. After this, your vision will improve and you will begin to benefit from the effects of the surgery.

Your consultant will provide you with a personalised recovery timeline tailored to your individual circumstances to ensure you know what to expect after surgery.

Like any operation, a vitrectomy or any other procedure to correct retinal detachment carries a small risk of complications. These include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Lens damage
  • Problems with eye movement
  • Blood clots
  • High pressure in your eye

You can discuss these risks with your consultant, who can answer any questions you have about them and put your mind at ease.

How bad is the pain after a vitrectomy?

Your eye might feel a little sore, itchy, or scratched after surgery, but this can but managed effectively with over-the-counter painkillers.

Is a vitrectomy worth it?

Vitrectomy is a highly effective procedure to remove floaters from your eye, as well as blurred vision, helping repair and restore your eyesight and helping you get back doing the things you love.

Do you have to stay in hospital with a detached retina?

You can usually leave hospital within a day after a vitrectomy, but you will need someone to help drive you home from hospital.

What not to do after vitrectomy surgery?

If your doctor used an oil or gas bubble to hold the retina in place, keep your head in a certain position for a few days or longer after the surgery

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose your hospital and your consultant
  • Bespoke, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • Tasty and nutritious meals cooked onsite to your dietary requirements
  • Support from the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help spread the cost of your care

If you want to know more about retinal detachment treatment and find out if it's the right treatment for you, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in May 2023. Next review due May 2026.

  1. NHS, a detached retina (retinal detachment)
  2. Patient UK, retinal detachment
  3. NHS, retinal detachment surgery
  4. National Eye Institute, surgery for retinal detachment

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