Purpose: To investigate visual acuity outcomes in patients with persistent fetal vasculature (PFV) left untreated or treated with vitreoretinal surgical techniques and to investigate clinical features associated with prognosis.
Design: Retrospective, noncomparative case series.
Participants: All patients with PFV examined at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute from January 1, 1983 through December 31, 1998.
Intervention: All patients in the study had unilateral PFV. Of 42 PFV patients identified, 30 patients underwent vitreoretinal surgery. Indications for surgery included media opacity (e.g., cataract), vitreoretinal traction, and retinal detachment.
Main outcome measures: Final best postoperative visual acuity, prognostic ocular clinical features, and surgical complications.
Results: In the surgical group of patients, median age at diagnosis was 8 weeks, and median length of follow-up was 32 months, with all patients having at least 1 year of follow-up. Two patients had clinical and echographic findings consistent with anterior PFV, 2 patients had strictly posterior PFV, and the remaining 26 patients had components of both anterior and posterior PFV. Fourteen eyes (47%) achieved a final visual acuity of 20/400 or better at last follow-up. Risk factors for a poor visual acuity outcome (<20/400) included microphthalmia (28% of patients with microphthalmia versus 67% of patients with normal axial length achieved a final vision of 20/400 or better; P = 0.061) and preoperative retinal detachment or retinal or optic nerve abnormalities, or both, such as hypoplasia, folds, or indistinct macula with hypopigmentation (25% of patients with any of these anomalies versus 61 % of patients without these findings achieved a final vision of 20/400 or better; P = 0.072). After surgery, retinal detachment developed in three eyes, chronic hypotony in two other eyes, and neovascular glaucoma in one eye. In the nonsurgical group there were 6 male and 6 female patients. Two patients with posterior PFV had minimal disease and were not considered surgical candidates, whereas 10 patients with combined anterior and posterior PFV had advanced pathologic features, and it was believed that surgery would not offer significant visual improvement; median age at diagnosis was 9.5 months, and median length of follow-up was 36 months, with all patients having at least 1 year of follow-up. At last follow-up, 3 eyes (25%) had a final visual acuity of 20/400 or better. During follow-up, retinal detachment developed in 2 eyes and chronic hypotony in an additional 2 eyes.
Conclusions: The current study indicates that approximately 50% of patients undergoing surgery for PFV will achieve useful vision. Visual acuity outcomes in patients with PFV are correlated with the nature and extent of ocular risk factors. Some patients may not be candidates for surgery because of either minimal changes or advanced disease that limit the potential of visual improvement.