The treatment of posterior segment eye disease and related conditions has improved greatly in recent years with the advent of new therapies, materials and devices. Vitreoretinal conditions, however, remain significant causes of blindness in the developed world. Biomaterials play a major role in the treatment of many of these disorders and the success rate of vitreoretinal surgery, especially in the repair of retinal detachment and related conditions, would increase with the introduction of new and improved materials. This review, which focuses on disorders that feature retinal detachment, briefly describes the anatomy of the eye and the nature and treatment of posterior segment eye disorders. The roles, required properties and suitability of the materials used in vitreoretinal surgery as scleral buckles, tamponade agents or drug delivery devices, are reviewed. Experimental approaches are discussed, along with the methods used for their evaluation, and future directions for biomaterial research in the posterior segment of the eye are considered.