Purpose: To assess the impact on visual acuity of delays between diagnosis and treatment in patients with subfoveal neovascular age-related macular degeneration (NV-AMD) and to evaluate NV-AMD patients' emotional status before therapy initiation.
Methods: This retrospective, multicenter, epidemiological study included newly diagnosed NV-AMD patients registered in the Spanish national health system and referred to regional health centers for evaluation/treatment by a retinal specialist from 09/2005 to 03/2006. Records were reviewed and data abstracted at referring physicians' offices (diagnosis visit) and regional health centers (treatment visit). Treatment was at physicians' discretion. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was administered at the treatment visit (before therapy).
Results: Median time from the diagnosis to treatment visit was 2.3 months (95% confidence interval: 0.2-10.8 months). Vision loss had progressed at the treatment visit with a doubling in the percentage of patients with a visual acuity of 20/400 or worse (from 12.4 to 24.7%). The decrease in visual acuity from the diagnosis to the treatment visit was highly statistically significant (P<0.0001) as was the correlation between months to treatment and visual acuity change (r=0.5234, P<0.0001). Time from the diagnosis to the treatment visit remained a significant predictor of progressive vision loss when visual acuity at diagnosis and change in lesion size between diagnosis and treatment were controlled (P<0.0001). Patients with more severe vision loss prior to treatment tended to report more depression.
Conclusions: Delayed treatment of patients newly diagnosed with NV-AMD is associated with substantial visual acuity loss.