We have reviewed the surgical management of essential blepharospasm over the last 15 years, comparing the results from facial nerve avulsion with those from orbicularis muscle stripping. After facial nerve avulsion 50% of patients remained free of troublesome spasm for 15 months after surgery, but only 25% remained so for more than two years. Following orbicularis oculi myectomy 50% of patients were free of troublesome spasms for 30 months after surgery and 55% of patients had relief from spasm for more than two years. Secondary effects of the two procedures are compared and are found to be fewer after orbicularis myectomy. There were no major complications after either form of surgery. Botulinum toxin is the treatment of first choice for this condition. If this becomes ineffective or inconvenient, surgical treatment is warranted and should not be deferred for fear of severe side effects of treatment, since these are rare. Protractor myectomy gives longer relief from blepharospasm than facial nerve avulsion and has fewer complications. However, it is technically difficult, time consuming, and has greater peroperative morbidity. Facial nerve avulsion may therefore still have a role in selected patients.