Local resection of choroidal melanomas is not widely performed so that the indications for this operation have not previously been defined statistically. Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses were used to identify the factors influencing visual acuity after 163 completed local resections for choroidal melanoma in patients with a preoperative visual acuity of counting fingers or better. The variables included in the analyses were patient age and sex; eye laterality and preoperative visual acuity; location of anterior and posterior tumour margins; tumour location (coronal and sagittal); tumour diameter, thickness, and cell type; ocular decompression by vitrectomy; and adequacy of surgical clearance. The surgical resections were performed using a lamellar scleral flap for eye closure, hypotensive anaesthesia for haemostasis, and, in the later years, ocular decompression by pars plana vitrectomy to improve access. The patients (94 men, 69 women) had a mean age of 50 years. The tumours had a mean diameter of 13.3 mm and a mean thickness of 7.4 mm, with 38 tumours extending to within 1 disc diameter (DD) of the optic disc, fovea or both (that is, 'posterior tumour extension'). Cox multivariate analysis showed that the most significant preoperative factors for predicting retention of good vision (6/12 or better) were nasal tumour location (p = 0.002) and distance of more than 1 DD between the tumour and the optic disc or fovea (p = 0.010). The most significant predictive risk factor for severe visual loss (hand movements or worse) was posterior tumour extension to within 1 DD of the optic disc and/or fovea (p = 0.009). One year post-operatively, all 28 patients with nasal tumours not extending to within 1 DD of the optic disc or fovea retained the eye with 57% having vision of 6/12 or better and 93% having vision of counting fingers or better. In 68 patients with temporal tumours, 90% retained the eye at 1 year with preservation of vision of counting fingers or better in 82% of 56 eyes without posterior tumours extension and in 50% of 12 eyes with posterior tumour extension. In patients with choroidal melanoma, conservation of the eye and vision can be achieved by local resection, especially if the tumour is located nasally and does not extend close to the disc or fovea.