Posterior Vitreous Detachment and the Posterior Hyaloid Membrane

Ophthalmology. 2018 Feb;125(2):227-236. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Sep 1.


Purpose: Despite posterior vitreous detachment being a common ocular event affecting most individuals in an aging population, there is little consensus regarding its precise anatomic definition. We investigated the morphologic appearance and molecular composition of the posterior hyaloid membrane to determine whether the structure clinically observed enveloping the posterior vitreous surface after posterior vitreous detachment is a true basement membrane and to postulate its origin. Understanding the relationship between the vitreous (in both its attached and detached state) and the internal limiting membrane of the retina is essential to understanding the cause of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment and vitreoretinal interface disorders, as well as potential future prophylactic and treatment strategies.

Design: Clinicohistologic correlation study.

Participants: Thirty-six human donor globes.

Methods: Vitreous bodies identified to have posterior vitreous detachment were examined with phase-contrast microscopy and confocal microscopy after immunohistochemically staining for collagen IV basement membrane markers, in addition to extracellular proteins that characterize the vitreoretinal junction (fibronectin, laminin) and vitreous gel (opticin) markers. The posterior retina similarly was stained to evaluate the internal limiting membrane. Findings were correlated to the clinical appearance of the posterior hyaloid membrane observed during slit-lamp biomicroscopy after posterior vitreous detachment and compared with previously published studies.

Main outcome measures: Morphologic appearance and molecular composition of the posterior hyaloid membrane.

Results: Phase-contrast microscopy consistently identified a creased and distinct glassy membranous sheet enveloping the posterior vitreous surface, correlating closely with the posterior hyaloid membrane observed during slit-lamp biomicroscopy in patients with posterior vitreous detachment. Immunofluorescent confocal micrographs demonstrated the enveloping membranous structure identified on phase-contrast microscopy to show positive stain results for type IV collagen. Immunofluorescence of the residual intact internal limiting membrane on the retinal surface also showed positive stain results for type IV collagen.

Conclusions: The results of this study provide immunohistochemical evidence that the posterior hyaloid membrane is a true basement membrane enveloping the posterior hyaloid surface. Because this membranous structure is observed only after posterior vitreous detachment, the results of this study indicate that it forms part of the internal limiting membrane when the vitreous is in its attached state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Basement Membrane / chemistry
  • Basement Membrane / diagnostic imaging*
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Acoustic
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vitrectomy
  • Vitreous Body / pathology*
  • Vitreous Body / surgery
  • Vitreous Detachment / diagnosis*
  • Vitreous Detachment / surgery


  • Collagen