This study was to determine whether general anaesthesia plus retrobulbar block would be a better anaesthetic technique than general anaesthesia alone in retinal detachment surgery. Twenty-eight patients were allocated randomly to either general anaesthesia with retrobulbar block or general anaesthesia alone. The anaesthetist involved was blinded as to whether a retrobulbar block was performed or not. Significantly fewer patients in the general anaesthesia plus block group complained of postoperative pain than patients in the general anaesthesia group (21.4% as compared with 64.3%, p less than 0.05). Those who received general anaesthesia plus block recovered significantly more rapidly than those receiving general anaesthesia alone. The time to opening of eyes on command (p less than 0.05), telling the correct date of birth (p less than 0.01), reaching a full recovery score (p less than 0.005) and performing a simple motor task (p less than 0.025) was shorter in patients with general anaesthesia plus block. Thus general anaesthesia plus retrobulbar block was superior to general anaesthesia alone in terms of pain and recovery after operation.