Objectives: To verify that a few laser lesions in the posterior pole can cause drusen to resolve in patients with age-related macular degeneration, and to document central retinal sensitivity as drusen resolve.
Design: In a pilot study, 12 patients considered to be at high risk for sight-threatening complications from age-related macular degeneration were treated with 12 argon laser lesions in the posterior pole, with review for 12 to 24 months.
Results: Choroidal neovascularization developed in 1 patient 8 months after treatment, with consequent loss of central vision. In 9 of the remaining 11 patients, high-risk characteristics of drusen were reduced. Four patients had retinal pigment epithelial depigmentation, and all maintained 20/40 visual acuity at 12 months. One patient lost 3 lines of vision due to geographic atrophy after 12 months. Scotopic retinal threshold was elevated before treatment in 8 patients, compared with an age-matched comparison group. Of these, 4 patients underwent retesting 3 to 6 months after treatment, and all had improved thresholds, but only 1 patient sustained the improvement at 12 months. At 12 months, 3 of the 8 patients showed an improvement in their mean retinal threshold. Of those in whom the mean retinal threshold worsened, the mean elevation in threshold was not more than 0.6 log units.
Conclusions: A few laser lesions in the posterior pole leads to resolution of drusen. There does not appear to be an increased risk for choroidal neovascularization. Retinal threshold measurements show no indication of geographic atrophy at 1 year, but cannot be excluded as a late outcome. Laser treatment may reduce the risk for profound sight-threatening lesions in age-related macular degeneration.