Background: Describing the natural course of neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) is essential in discussing prognosis and treatment options with patients and to support cost-effectiveness studies.
Methods: First, we performed a literature search in PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane. We included randomized clinical trials and prospective observational studies reporting visual acuity (VA) in non-treated patients, 24 studies in total. We integrated VA data using best fit on Lineweaver-Burke plots and modelled with non-linear regression using reciprocal terms. Second, we performed a quality-of-life (QoL) study in nAMD patients. We measured VA with Radner reading charts and QoL with the Health Utilities Index issue 3 (HUI-3) questionnaire in 184 participants. We studied the relation VA-QoL with linear regression. Third, with Monte Carlo simulation, we integrated the VA model from the literature review and the relation VA-QoL from the QoL study.
Results: Visual acuity was 0.4 and 0.07 after 5 years in the better-seeing, and worse-seeing eye, respectively. After 4.3 years, VA was <0.5 in the better-seeing eye; <0.3 after 7 years; 0.05 after 17 years. QoL score decreased from 0.6 to 0.45 after 10 years.
Conclusions: The natural course of nAMD in both eyes needs to be considered when informing patients. Visual acuity in the best eye decreases to below 0.5 in 4.3 years. This affects QoL significantly.
Keywords: Age-related macular degeneration; Cost-effectiveness; Natural progression; Prognosis; Quality of life; Visual acuity.