Posterior vitreous detachment: evolution and complications of its early stages

Am J Ophthalmol. 2010 Mar;149(3):371-82.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2009.11.022.


Purpose: To summarize emerging concepts regarding the onset and progression, traction effects, and complications of the early stages of age-related posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

Design: Interpretive essay.

Methods: Review and synthesis of selected literature, with clinical illustrations, interpretation, and perspective.

Results: Imaging of the vitreoretinal interface with optical coherence tomography has shown that PVD begins in the perifoveal macula. Recent longitudinal studies have demonstrated conclusively that early PVD stages persist chronically and progress slowly over months to years. Vitreous traction forces resulting from perifoveal PVD with a small vitreofoveolar adhesion (500 microm or less) may cause localized cystoid foveal thickening or one of several macular hole conditions. Traction associated with larger adhesion zones may cause or exacerbate a separate group of macular disorders. Ultrastructural studies suggest that epiretinal membrane develops from cortical vitreous remnants left on the retinal surface after PVD and plays an important role in traction vitreomaculopathies.

Conclusions: Age-related PVD is an insidious, chronic event that begins in the perifoveal macula and evolves over a prolonged period before vitreopapillary separation. Although asymptomatic in most individuals, its early stages may be complicated by a variety of macular and optic disc pathologic features, determined in part by the size and strength of the residual vitreoretinal adhesion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Retina / pathology
  • Vitreous Body / pathology
  • Vitreous Detachment / complications*
  • Vitreous Detachment / diagnosis
  • Vitreous Detachment / physiopathology