Free submandibular gland transfer is potentially the best surgical solution to total xerophthalmia. Experimentally, gland function has only previously been followed for 2 months. This study was designed to investigate the long term effects of free transfer on gland function. Simultaneous creation of experimental xerophthalmia and free microvascular transfer of the submandibular gland to the orbit was completed in 10 rabbits. Two died before the end of the experimental period and the study was based on the remaining eight. Six months after transfer, five of the eight transferred glands were histologically normal and contained healthy neurones and nerve terminals. In these animals, tear secretion in the transfer eye was significantly greater than that of the control eye at 2 (p < 0.05) and 6 months (p < 0.02) after transfer. In the transfer eye, tear secretion was also found to have significantly increased from preoperative levels at 2 (p < 0.05) and 6 months (p < 0.01). The observed innervation of the transferred glands may play a role in maintaining secretion in the long term.