February 2018

Early and Late Retinal Pigment Epithelium Tears after Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Therapy for Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Alessandro Invernizzi, Vuong Nguyen, Jennifer Arnold, Stephanie Young, Daniel Barthelmes, Mark C Gillies


Purpose: To investigate when retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) tears occur and their associated treatment patterns and long-term visual outcomes in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) during anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) treatment.

Design: Case-control analysis from a prospectively designed observational database.

Participants: Treatment-naïve eyes enrolled in the Fight Retina Blindness! observational study that commenced anti-VEGF treatment for nAMD between January 2006 and January 2017 were identified. Cases were defined as eyes in which an RPE tear developed during treatment. Three control eyes per case were matched for age, baseline visual acuity (VA), lesion size, treatment duration before tearing, and duration of follow-up.

Methods: Cases were classified as having early or late tears using a segmented regression model. Baseline characteristics were compared between the 2 groups. Comparisons of VA and injections received between tear eyes and control eyes were performed at baseline, before and immediately after the tear, and then 12 and 24 months later. Visual acuity also was compared among different visits within each group.

Main outcome measures: Visual acuity, time to tear, and injections received.

Results: Fifty-five cases and 165 matched control eyes were included. The segmented regression estimated a breakpoint for the time to tear at 182 days. We therefore defined eyes as having early tears if they tore before the breakpoint (38/55 eyes [69%]), and as late tears if they tore afterward (17/55 eyes [31%]). Baseline VA was significantly lower in early compared with late tears (53.6 vs. 63.4 letters; P = 0.009). Visual acuity had improved in early tears before the tear (+5.6 letters from baseline; P = 0.01), decreased immediately after the tear (-8.3 letters; P = 0.002), then recovered with no difference compared with control eyes 12 and 24 months later (P > 0.05 for both). Late tear eyes had significantly lower VA than control eyes before tearing (55.5 vs. 66.9 letters; P < 0.001). Visual acuity did not decrease significantly after the tear, but continued to decline compared with control eyes at all end points. Both early and late tear eyes received more injections than control eyes after tearing. Conclusions: Retinal pigment epithelium tears act differently depending on when they occur. Long-term visual outcomes in eyes affected by RPE tearing may be related more to the patient's response to therapy than to the tear itself.