The introduction of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and, more recently, semifluorinated alkanes (SFAs) has greatly facilitated vitreoretinal surgery. A distinction is made between the use of these substances as intraoperative tools and internal tamponade agents. This article reviews the physical and chemical properties of PFCs and SFAs and discusses the indications, results, and complications. The effectiveness of these substances as internal tamponade agents is discussed with reference to the specific gravity, contact angle, viscosity and ability to fill model eye chambers and the vitreous cavity. The evidence for the toxicity in animal and human is examined.