Background: To document the long-term outcome in cases of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) tears after treatment of vascularized pigment epithelial detachments with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of the long-term outcome of a consecutive series of eyes with RPE tear developed during anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy for pigment epithelial detachment associated with choroidal neovascularization or retinal angiomatous proliferation (vascularized pigment epithelial detachment) was performed. Best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), spectral domain optical coherence tomography, and autofluorescence images and also fluorescein angiograms were analyzed to determine the functional and morphologic development over time.
Results: The long-term outcome of 22 eyes (21 patients, 13 women and 8 men; 65-85 years; mean: 76 years) with RPE tear was performed with minimal follow-up of 3 years (range: 3-5 years, mean: 44 months) and re-treatment with different therapeutic strategies. The eyes were differentiated in 2 groups according to the course of BCVA after the first 2 years of follow-up: Group 1 (11 eyes) demonstrated a stabilized or improved BCVA after 2 years and Group 2 (11 eyes) demonstrated a decrease in BCVA after 2 years. The initial BCVA between both groups was comparable. Also the mean initial size of the RPE tear was the same between the 2 groups, the area of the RPE tear decreased continuously during follow-up in Group 1, whereas this was the case in Group 2 only at the beginning of treatment with a further increase of the size of the RPE tear with longer follow-up. This corresponded with a different morphologic development between the two groups. In Group 1, increasing recovery of autofluorescence at the RPE-free area was visible beginning from the outer border, whereas in Group 2, further growth of the neovascular complex in the area of the RPE tear was observed resulting in larger fibrovascular scars. In addition, in both groups, the development of hyperreflective tissue was seen on spectral domain optical coherence tomography in the RPE-free area. The major therapeutic difference between the 2 groups was a significantly larger number of injections especially during the first year in Group 1.
Conclusion: The development of RPE tear after anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy for vascularized pigment epithelial detachment in exudative age-related macular degeneration does not necessarily result in large disciform scars and functional loss, but multiple injections seem to be beneficial especially in the first year. With this strategy, RPE tears seem to be covered by autofluorescent and hyperreflective tissue and a regrowth of the neovascular complex can be prohibited. As a result, photoreceptor cells regain their metabolic support with functional recovery.