Flashes and floaters as predictors of vitreoretinal pathology: is follow-up necessary for posterior vitreous detachment?

Eye (Lond). 1996;10 ( Pt 4):456-8. doi: 10.1038/eye.1996.100.


Purpose: The aim of the study was to determine whether patients presenting with an isolated posterior vitreous detachment require follow-up to identify retinal breaks not apparent at presentation and whether some histories are more predictive of associated serious posterior segment pathology.

Methods: The notes of 295 patients presenting to eye casualty with flashes and/or floaters were reviewed.

Results: One hundred and eighty-nine patients (64%) had isolated posterior vitreous detachments, 49 (16.6%) had retinal detachments and 31 (10.5%) had flat retinal tears. Three new breaks (3.3% of all tears found, 1.9% of review appointments) were identified only at follow-up. Although a subjective reduction in vision and a history of less than 6 weeks' duration were strongly predictive of retinal breaks, the large group of patients presenting with floaters alone (124/295, 42%) still harboured a significant proportion (26.7%) of the retinal breaks.

Conclusions: A follow-up visit for patients with an isolated posterior vitreous detachment can be justified to detect the small percentage of asymptomatic retinal breaks. Although a subjective reduction of vision is the symptom most predictive of serious posterior segment pathology, it would be unsafe to identify particular subgroups of patients alone for careful examination.

MeSH terms

  • Emergencies
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Retinal Detachment / diagnosis
  • Retinal Perforations / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Vision Disorders / prevention & control
  • Vitreous Body*