Objective: To determine the rate of developing choroidal neovascularization (CNV) in eyes with geographic atrophy (GA) from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the characteristics of the CNV in these eyes.
Design: Prospective natural history study with cohort analysis.
Participants: One hundred fifty-two patients with GA and no CNV by fluorescein angiography in at least 1 eye, with annual follow-up.
Main outcome measures: The development of CNV.
Results: Thirteen eyes with GA developed CNV. For patients with bilateral GA and no CNV at baseline, 2% developed CNV by 2 years and 11% by 4 years. For patients with CNV in the fellow eye, 18% developed CNV in the study eye with GA by 2 years and 34% by 4 years. The eyes that developed CNV experienced more acuity loss than did the eyes with only GA. Within the fellow eye CNV group, those study eyes with GA that had less central atrophy (and better acuity) at baseline were more likely to develop CNV. The CNV developed at a peripheral border of GA in nine eyes, in the spared foveal region in two eyes, and in both center and border in one eye. No eye developed CNV in the area of atrophy itself. The appearance of CNV was evanescent in some cases and had a final appearance of an enlarged area of GA. Twelve other eyes had hemorrhages without definite evidence of CNV; three were thought to be suspicious for CNV and the remainder were thought to be hemorrhages that may be seen in elderly patients.
Conclusion: An eye with GA whose fellow eye has CNV is at significant risk for the development of CNV in the GA eye. A patient with bilateral GA and no evidence of CNV is at relatively low risk for developing CNV. The CNV may be evanescent and may not be detected. Intraretinal hemorrhages unrelated to CNV are relatively common in this older population.