Purpose: Intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents have been shown to reduce diabetic retinopathy (DR) progression; data on the effects of intravitreal corticosteroids on modifying disease severity are limited. This study evaluates the long-term effect of intravitreal dexamethasone implant (DEX) on the severity and progression of non-proliferative DR (NPDR).
Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study. Sixty eyes from 60 consecutive patients with NPDR and diabetic macular edema (DME) treated with dexamethasone implant (DEX group) and 49 eyes from consecutive 49 patients without DME requiring observation only. Fundus angiography images from baseline and after 24 months were graded by two masked assessors into mild, moderate and severe NPDR and PDR, according to the ETDRS classification. Patients were followed up 1-3 and 4-6 months after each DEX implant. Re-treatment with DEX implant was on a pro re nata basis. Records were reviewed for performance of panretinal photocoagulation. Main outcome was as follows: change of DR ≥ 1 grade and progression to proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR).
Results: Three eyes (5%) in the DEX group and 43 (87.8%) eyes in the control group progressed to PDR (P < 0.0001). Twenty-five eyes (41.7%) in the DEX group but none in the control group demonstrated an improvement in DR severity (P < 0.0001).
Conclusion: This study provides the first long-term evidence that DEX implant has the potential to not only delay progression of DR and PDR development, but may also improve DR severity over 24 months. Better understanding of the effects of corticosteroids will help guide its use in the treatment pathway of DR.
Keywords: Dexamethasone implant; Diabetic retinopathy; Panretinal photocoagulation; Progression; Severity.