OBJECTIVE: To compare functional and anatomical outcomes after idiopathic epiretinal membrane (ERM) peeling combined with phacoemulsification and intraocular lens implantation versus ERM peeling alone. METHODS: A retrospective, non-randomised comparative case series study was conducted of 81 eyes from 79 patients who underwent ERM peeling at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center between 2001 and 2010. Eyes that underwent combined surgery for ERM and cataracts (group 1) were compared with those that had ERM peeling alone (group 2) with respect to best-corrected visual acuity at 6 months and 1 year after surgery, postoperative central macular thickness (CMT) as measured on optical coherence tomography, and rates of complications, including elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), ERM recurrence and need for reoperation. RESULTS: Mean logMAR visual acuity improved significantly in both groups at 6 months (p<0.001) and 1 year (p<0.001) after surgery. There was no statistical difference between the two groups in visual acuity improvement at 6 months (p=0.108) or 1 year (p=0.094). Mean CMT of both groups also significantly decreased after surgery (p=0.002), with no statistical difference in CMT reduction between the two groups, but a trend toward less CMT reduction in group 1 (p=0.061). The rates of complications, including IOP elevation, ERM recurrence and frequency of reoperation, were similar in the two groups, with non-statistical trends toward greater ERM recurrence (p=0.084) and need for reoperation (p=0.096) in those that had combined surgery. CONCLUSIONS: Combined surgery for ERMs and cataracts may potentially be as effective as membrane peeling alone with respect to visual and anatomical outcomes. Further studies are necessary to determine if there may be greater ERM recurrence or need for reoperation after combined surgery.