Rehospitalization for retinal detachment (RD) was studied in 338,141 Medicare beneficiaries older than 65 years of age who were undergoing inpatient cataract extraction in 1984. Extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE) was performed in 60% of patients, intracapsular cataract extraction (ICCE) in 31 %, and phacoemulsification in 9%. The risk of rehospitalization for RD within 4 years of ICCE was 1.55%, over 1.5 times the risk associated with ECCE (0.9%). The risk of RD after phacoemulsification was 1.17%. Cataract surgery accompanied by anterior vitrectomy was associated with a 5.0%, likelihood of RD at 4 years, which is 4.5 times greater than that for cataract surgery alone (1.12%). White patients were 1.7 times more likely to be rehospitalized for RD than were black patients (1.15% versus 0.67%; P < 0.001). In both races, younger patients were more likely to be rehospitalized for RD than were older patients (P < 0.001). While the increased rate of RD after ICCE versus ECCE confirms previously held clinical beliefs, the increase in the risk following phacoemulsification (P < 0.0001) has not been reported previously.