A retrospective study of cataract surgery performed between January 1983 and December 31, 1989, disclosed 48 eyes in which the posterior capsule was torn. The overall incidence of this complication was approximately 1% but was further reduced when the technique of capsulorhexis was mastered. Our review of the video tapes of these surgical procedures revealed that the tear occurred most frequently during nucleus removal (41%) and posterior capsular vacuuming (28%). The anatomy of each tear was classified and related to the event responsible for the torn capsule, as well as to the likelihood of vitreous involvement. Vitreous presented through the tear in 32% of the 48 cases, entered the wound in 6%, and remained posterior to the torn capsule in 62%. Intraocular lenses were implanted in every case; only posterior chamber lenses were used during the last four years of the study. Vitreous-related complications included vitreous prolapse, peaked pupils, and vitreous-induced pupillary block. Acute postoperative intraocular pressure elevation was a frequent finding and was managed by conservative therapy. Transient cystoid macular edema developed in one case which had a rotating anterior chamber intraocular lens. No retinal detachments occurred in this series. Final visual acuity of 20/40 or better was achieved in 89% of the 48 cases. When properly managed, a torn posterior capsule is compatible with an excellent visual outcome.