Purpose: To measure the rate of progression of retinal degeneration in patients with retinitis pigmentosa due to dominant rhodopsin mutations and to determine whether the rate of progression correlates with the location of the altered amino acid in the rhodopsin molecule.
Methods: Change in ocular function was observed for an average of 8.7 years in 140 patients. After censoring data to eliminate "ceiling" and "floor" effects, longitudinal rates of change were compared, after weighting by follow-up time and number of visits, with rates inferred from cross-sectional analyses of the data from baseline visits. Mean rates of change were compared among groups of patients with mutations affecting the globule, plug, or C-terminal region of the protein after adjusting for age, gender, and baseline function.
Results: Mean annual exponential rates of decline were 1.8% for visual acuity, 2.6% for visual field area, and 8.7% for ERG amplitude. The rates of visual acuity and ERG amplitude decline were significantly faster, and the rate of visual field area decline was significantly slower, than those inferred from baseline visits. Rates of acuity loss did not vary significantly with the region affected by the mutation. In contrast, the mean annual rate of field loss in the C terminus group (7.4%) was significantly faster than that in the globule (1.7%) or plug (1.1%) group. The mean annual rate of ERG decline was also significantly faster in the C terminus group (13.5%) than in the globule (8.5%) or plug (3.7%) groups and significantly faster in the globule group than in the plug group.
Conclusions: Rates of decline in visual function for groups of patients with rhodopsin mutations cannot be accurately inferred from cross-sectional analyses of baseline visits. Average rates of decline of visual field area and ERG amplitude are fastest in patients with mutations affecting the C-terminal region.