Purpose: To explore neuronal and glial alterations in eyes with complex long-term rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD).
Methods: Morphological analysis was performed on eight retinal specimens derived from patients treated with peripheral retinectomy for RRD complicated by retinal shortening or retinal thinning. All eyes had undergone previous surgeries including silicone oil tamponade, and had a median total detachment time of 2.5 months (range 2-12). Specimens were examined with hematoxylin and eosin staining and immunohistochemistry directed against activated Müller cells, ganglion cells, rod bipolar cells, and photoreceptors.
Results: Retinal specimens displayed severe loss of photoreceptor and rod bipolar cells. Remaining neuronal cells exhibited disorganized perikarya and neurites with disruption of the normal retinal lamination. Müller cell activation was evident in all specimens with subretinal and epiretinal hypertrophy present in tissue derived from shortened retinal detachments.
Conclusion: Long-term RRD leads to retinal remodeling characterized by loss of first and second order retinal neurons, disruption of the entire retinal lamination and gliosis. The severity of histopathological changes indicates that anatomical as well as functional recovery of the involved retina is precarious. The findings may be important when devising surgical strategies to avoid permanent retinal detachment.