Retinal and choroidal responses to panretinal photocoagulation: an ultrastructural perspective

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1995 Nov;233(11):699-705. doi: 10.1007/BF00164672.


Background: There have been few histological or ultrastructural studies of the outer retina and choriocapillaris following panretinal photocoagulation therapy. This investigation examines the long-term morphological effects of panretinal photocoagulation in two patients with type II diabetes who had received laser treatment more than 6 months prior to death.

Methods: Regions of retina and choroid from each patient were fixed in 2.5% glutaraldehyde, dissected out and examined using light microscopy and scanning and transmission electron microscopy.

Results: After removing the neural retina, scanning electron microscopy of non-photocoagulated areas of the eye cups revealed normal cobblestone-like retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. Regions with laser scars showed little RPE infiltration into the scar area, although large rounded cells often appeared in isolation within these areas. Sections of the retina and choroid in burn regions showed a complete absence of the outer nuclear layer and photoreceptor cells, with the inner retinal layers lying in close apposition to Bruch's membrane. Non-photocoagulated regions of the retina and choroid appeared normal in terms of both cell number and cell distribution. The RPE layer was absent within burn scars but many RPE-like cells appeared markedly hypertrophic at the edges of these regions. Bruch's membrane always remained intact, although the underlying choriocapillaris was clearly disrupted at the point of photocoagulation burns, appearing largely fibrosed and non-perfused. Occasional choroidal capillaries occurring in this region were typically small in profile and had plump non-fenestrated endothelium.

Conclusions: This study outlines retinal and choroidal cell responses to panretinal photocoagulation in diabetic patients and demonstrates an apparent reduction in the capacity of these tissues to repair laser damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Choroid / ultrastructure*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / pathology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Middle Aged
  • Photoreceptor Cells / ultrastructure
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / ultrastructure
  • Retina / ultrastructure*