Aims: To evaluate the anatomical outcomes, safety and functional effectiveness of surgical embolus removal in retinal artery occlusion (RAO). Methods: Prospective study of seven patients with RAO of <36 h duration. All eyes underwent pars plana vitrectomy and a longitudinal incision of the anterior wall of the occluded arteriole in an attempt to remove the embolus. Outcome measures included visual acuity and arteriolar reperfusion, as evaluated with fluorescein angiography. Results: Surgical removal of the embolus was achieved in six of the seven (87.5%) patients, visual acuity improved from a median of 20/400 (range: hand movements 20/25) to 20/40 (range: hand movements 20/25), and reperfusion of the occluded vessel was angiographically confirmed in four of the six patients in whom the embolus was successfully removed. Conclusion: Surgical removal of retinal arterial emboli seems to be an effective and safe treatment for RAO, but a randomised and controlled clinical trial will be necessary to establish an evidence base for the role, if any, of this intervention.