Purpose: To identify the development and progression of macular retinal pigment epithelial atrophy in eyes with neovascular (CNV) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and to correlate with visual acuity (VA).
Design: Cohort study.
Participants: Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) participants with intermediate AMD enrolled in a randomized controlled clinical trial of oral supplements. Analyses were conducted in the subset of AREDS2 participants who were also enrolled in the fundus autofluorescence ancillary (FAF) ancillary study.
Methods: Color photographs and FAF images were evaluated in eyes that developed CNV. Presence of geographic atrophy (GA) prior to the incidence of CNV and the development of macular atrophy following incident CNV were assessed. Areas of hypoautofluorescence representing atrophy were measured for area and macular involvement. Enlargement rate of atrophy and change in visual acuity over time were analyzed.
Main outcome measures: incidence and enlargement rate of atrophy and VA changes in eyes with incident CNV.
Results: Incident CNV developed in 334 (9.2%) of eyes evaluated in the AREDS2 FAF substudy. Of these, 40% had macular atrophy at incidence of CNV with half of these attributable to pre-existing GA. Atrophy developed in 14.7 % of eyes over 4 years of follow-up. Mean area of atrophy was largest in eyes with pre-existing GA and CNV (5.17 mm2, p<0.001), and atrophy involved the center of the macula in > 65% of eyes. Mean VA letter score at the annual visit in which CNV was documented was similar in the three groups with atrophy; eyes with CNV and pre-existing GA, incident atrophy at the first visit with CNV, and atrophy during follow up (60 letters). Enlargement rate of atrophy was also similar in eyes in the three groups (1.23 - 1.86 mm2, p = 0.47). Eyes with macular atrophy lost more visual acuity compared to eyes without atrophy, particularly after 2 years of follow-up (-10.9 vs. - 3.6 letters, p = 0.07).
Conclusion: Atrophy is commonly seen in neovascular AMD and often can be attributed to pre-existing GA. Macular atrophy and GA appear to be a continuum of the same disease process and are both associated with poor vision.