Preventing Progression in Nonexudative Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Subthreshold Laser Therapy: A Systematic Review

Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging Retina. 2019 Mar 1;50(3):e61-e70. doi: 10.3928/23258160-20190301-13.


Background and objective: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among the elderly in developed countries. Subthreshold retinal laser therapy is a new technique that targets drusen - a marker of nonexudative AMD - without causing incidental retinal damage associated with conventional laser photocoagulation. This review summarizes published literature on subthreshold retinal laser therapy as prophylactic treatment of nonexudative AMD.

Patients and methods: A literature search of the PubMed, Medline, and Embase databases was conducted from January 1997 to April 2018. Studies were analyzed based upon study design, laser parameters, drusen reduction, changes in visual acuity (VA), and the development of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) and/or geographic atrophy (GA).

Results: Twelve studies involving 2,481 eyes treated with subthreshold retinal laser therapy were included in this review. Treatment led to increased drusen reduction, and studies with significant VA improvement were associated with significant drusen reduction. There was no significant change in the risk of developing CNV or GA.

Conclusions: Subthreshold retinal laser therapy is effective for reducing drusen and potentially improving vision in patients with nonexudative AMD. This therapy does not show benefits in reducing development of CNV or GA. Thus, its long-term efficacy to prevent progression to advanced AMD cannot yet be recommended. [Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging Retina. 2019;50:e61-e70.].

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Choroidal Neovascularization / prevention & control
  • Disease Progression
  • Geographic Atrophy / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation / methods*
  • Macular Degeneration / surgery*
  • Retinal Drusen / surgery
  • Visual Acuity