Purpose: To define the effect of scatter laser photocoagulation on foveal retinal thickness.
Methods: A commercial scanning retinal thickness analyzer was used to measure retinal thickness. The foveal retinal thickness was measured at the central area of the fundus (0.4 x 0.4 mm). The method was applied to 20 consecutive patients (mean age, 52.4 +/-16.9 years) with diabetic retinopathy. Measurements were performed before and 6 weeks after scatter photocoagulation. Patients were examined by fluorescein angiography and slit-lamp biomicroscopy to detect macular edema.
Results: Mean foveal thickness before scatter photocoagulation was 187+/-45 microm, increasing to 221+/-46 microm after the treatment (P = 0.0001). The foveal thickness increased in 12 eyes (60%). Laser treatment increased macular permeability in two eyes (10%). Biomicroscopic examination revealed central macular thickening in one eye (5%). Visual acuity was reduced in four eyes (20%).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that subclinical macular edema occurs after scatter laser photocoagulation. The retinal thickness analyzer is a sensitive tool for early detection of macular edema after laser treatment, because increases in retinal thickness as small as 34 microm cannot be assessed by slit-lamp biomicroscopy.