Ophthalmic Surgery, Lasers and Imaging Retina

Clinical Science 

Complete Posterior Vitreous Detachment Reduces the Need for Treatment of Diabetic Macular Edema

William Anderson, MD; Kisha Piggott, MD, PhD; Yicheng K. Bao, BA; Hang Pham, MD; Sweta Kavali, MD; Rithwick Rajagopal, MD, PhD

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the vitreomacular interface and its relation to treatment burden for diabetic macular edema (DME) in patients without overt vitreomacular traction (VMT).

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

A retrospective cohort study of 494 eyes from 274 patients who had macular spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and did not have proliferative diabetic retinopathy, DME, or VMT at the initial visit. Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) was categorized at the initial visit into five stages (0–4) using SD-OCT parameters alone.

RESULTS:

Two of 34 eyes (6.9%) presenting with a complete PVD required DME treatment during follow-up, whereas 144 of 460 eyes (31.3%) without a complete PVD at baseline required treatment (P = .001, Chi-squared). After adjusting for age, ethnicity, gender, and HbA1c, complete PVD at baseline was associated with a significant reduction in risk of DME therapy (hazard ratio: 0.18; 95% confidence interval, 0.05–0.73; P = .02).

CONCLUSION:

Complete PVD is independently associated with a reduced need for DME treatment.

[Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging Retina. 2019;50:e266–e273.]

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the vitreomacular interface and its relation to treatment burden for diabetic macular edema (DME) in patients without overt vitreomacular traction (VMT).

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

A retrospective cohort study of 494 eyes from 274 patients who had macular spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and did not have proliferative diabetic retinopathy, DME, or VMT at the initial visit. Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) was categorized at the initial visit into five stages (0–4) using SD-OCT parameters alone.

RESULTS:

Two of 34 eyes (6.9%) presenting with a complete PVD required DME treatment during follow-up, whereas 144 of 460 eyes (31.3%) without a complete PVD at baseline required treatment (P = .001, Chi-squared). After adjusting for age, ethnicity, gender, and HbA1c, complete PVD at baseline was associated with a significant reduction in risk of DME therapy (hazard ratio: 0.18; 95% confidence interval, 0.05–0.73; P = .02).

CONCLUSION:

Complete PVD is independently associated with a reduced need for DME treatment.

[Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging Retina. 2019;50:e266–e273.]

Introduction

Ocular complications of diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME), remain significant causes of blindness despite substantial therapeutic advances in recent years. Diabetes may impact the nature of the vitreomacular interface (VMI), and stronger adhesions of the vitreous to the retina in diabetes are linked to late complications such as tractional retinal tears, retinal detachment, and loss of vision.1 But its role in the development and progression of earlier stages of DR and DME are still unclear.2 Complete posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) may mitigate proliferative DR,3 owing to lack of a suitable substrate for neovascular growth, reductions in tangential and antero-posterior tractional forces, and increased oxygen tension in liquefied vitreous.4,5 Acting through similar mechanisms, the presence of a PVD may be associated with a reduced risk of macular edema.6,7

The studies that led to these findings were limited by small sample sizes, but also by use of older methods to detect PVD. Visualization of the VMI can be achieved through a variety of methods including B-scan ultrasonography, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and optical coherence tomography (OCT).8 As OCT technology has advanced from time-domain (TD-OCT) to spectral-domain (SD-OCT), image resolution has greatly improved. Although TD-OCT has been used to evaluate the VMI and its effect on DME,9 SD-OCT provides far greater resolution of vitreous details and has not yet been utilized to study the relation of PVD to DME, to the best of our knowledge. SD-OCT permits visualization of the bursa premacularis, vitreous opacities, and posterior vitreous cortex — features that are often missed by other diagnostic modalities.10,11 In this study, we aimed to determine whether a relationship exists between PVD, as detected by SD-OCT, and incidence of treatable DME.

Patients and Methods

This multicenter, retrospective, observational study included consecutive patients with diabetes who underwent macular SD-OCT imaging in the Department of Ophthalmology at Saint Louis University and the Department of Ophthalmology at Washington University in St. Louis from January 1, 2012, to June 1, 2017. It was approved by both the Saint Louis University and Washington University institutional review boards. This study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and was Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliant.

Eligibility and Exclusion Criteria

Patients were eligible if they had a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, had a full-volume macular SD-OCT scan (patients with only single B-scan images were not eligible), and did not have proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), DME, or overt vitreomacular traction (VMT) at the initial visit. Patients were excluded if they were missing glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) or diabetes data or had a history of previous ocular surgery (except cataract surgery) or prior treatment for DR or DME (including prior intravitreous injection or laser). Patients not receiving DME treatment were excluded if they had less than 2 years follow-up or had only one encounter. However, patients with less than 2 years' follow-up were not excluded if they received DME treatment after the initial visit.

Study Protocol

We categorized PVD using SD-OCT imaging performed at the initial encounter. To make such assessments, we reviewed macular cube and raster scans on Spectralis OCT (Heidelberg Engineering, Heidelberg, Germany) and Cirrus HD-OCT (Zeiss, Jena, Germany). We then ranked PVD status according to criteria previously described by Johnson (Figure 1).12

Staging of posterior vitreous detachment on macular optical coherence tomography scan. (Stage 0) Intact posterior vitreous with visualization of an attached posterior vitreous cortex (arrows). The anatomical borders of the pre-macular bursa can be seen as a hyporeflective preretinal space (asterisks). (Stage 1) Perifoveal vitreous detachment with vitreous adhesion to the fovea. (Stage 2) Perifoveal vitreous detachment and no vitreofoveal adhesion, with the posterior vitreous trending toward the peripheral retina. (Stage 3) Near-complete vitreous detachment except for vitreopapillary adhesion, the posterior vitreous can be seen trending toward the optic nerve. (Stage 4) Complete posterior vitreous detachment, with the posterior vitreous cortex retracting toward the center of the vitreous cavity.

Figure 1.

Staging of posterior vitreous detachment on macular optical coherence tomography scan. (Stage 0) Intact posterior vitreous with visualization of an attached posterior vitreous cortex (arrows). The anatomical borders of the pre-macular bursa can be seen as a hyporeflective preretinal space (asterisks). (Stage 1) Perifoveal vitreous detachment with vitreous adhesion to the fovea. (Stage 2) Perifoveal vitreous detachment and no vitreofoveal adhesion, with the posterior vitreous trending toward the peripheral retina. (Stage 3) Near-complete vitreous detachment except for vitreopapillary adhesion, the posterior vitreous can be seen trending toward the optic nerve. (Stage 4) Complete posterior vitreous detachment, with the posterior vitreous cortex retracting toward the center of the vitreous cavity.

Classification of PVD

The various stage classifications of PVD are as follows. Stage 0: No evidence of PVD; Stage 1: Perifoveal vitreous detachment with vitreofoveal adhesion; Stage 2: Perifoveal vitreous detachment with no vitreofoveal adhesion; Stage 3: Near-complete PVD except for vitreopapillary adhesion; and Stage 4: Complete PVD.

A PVD was confirmed on OCT if the posterior vitreous cortex or details of the vitreous body, bursa pre-macularis, hyperreflective vitreous strands, or granular details of the posterior vitreous body were absent from the retinal surface (Figure 2). In cases where scanned images were too dark to appreciate vitreous detail, contrast settings were modified to optimize such examination. These findings were recorded by two independent graders. If there was disagreement on the classification by the two graders on any of the OCT scans, the image was arbitrated by a third grader.

Identification of vitreous anatomy on optical coherence tomography. In images A and B, selected cross-sections from the same eye are shown with their locations marked on the fundus images. (A) The macular cube scan shows no evidence of vitreous details at the foveal cross-section. (B) A different cross-section within the same macular cube scan shows the posterior vitreous cortex (arrows) clearly observed, indicating an attached posterior vitreous. Reviewing all scans within the macular cube, not just the subfoveal, can help identify vitreous details. In images C and D, the same cross-section of a macular cube scan is shown before and after adjustment of the signal gain. (C) The image shows what appears to be the posterior vitreous cortex (arrows) in a scan initially suspected to be a posterior vitreous detachment. (D) After increasing the signal gain, details of the vitreous body can be appreciated including the anatomical borders of the pre-macular bursa (asterisks) with an intact posterior vitreous (arrowheads). What previously was observed to be the posterior vitreous cortex can be identified as vitreoschisis (arrows).

Figure 2.

Identification of vitreous anatomy on optical coherence tomography. In images A and B, selected cross-sections from the same eye are shown with their locations marked on the fundus images. (A) The macular cube scan shows no evidence of vitreous details at the foveal cross-section. (B) A different cross-section within the same macular cube scan shows the posterior vitreous cortex (arrows) clearly observed, indicating an attached posterior vitreous. Reviewing all scans within the macular cube, not just the subfoveal, can help identify vitreous details. In images C and D, the same cross-section of a macular cube scan is shown before and after adjustment of the signal gain. (C) The image shows what appears to be the posterior vitreous cortex (arrows) in a scan initially suspected to be a posterior vitreous detachment. (D) After increasing the signal gain, details of the vitreous body can be appreciated including the anatomical borders of the pre-macular bursa (asterisks) with an intact posterior vitreous (arrowheads). What previously was observed to be the posterior vitreous cortex can be identified as vitreoschisis (arrows).

Outcomes

Treatment for DME was recorded during follow-up and included need for any intravitreous vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor (aflibercept [Eylea; Regeneron, Tarrytown, NY], bevacizumab [Avastin; Genentech, South San Francisco, CA], or ranibizumab [Lucentis; Genentech, South San Francisco, CA]), intravitreous corticosteroid injection (triamcinolone, dexamethasone implant [Ozurdex; Allergan, Irvine, CA], or fluocinolone implant), or focal/grid photocoagulation. Need for treatment was determined based on the presence of center-involving DME with reduction in vision to 20/40 (Snellen) or worse. Other relevant information recorded included gender, race, lens status, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insulin use, and type of diabetes to determine underlying prognostic factors. Hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and insulin use were confirmed by review of their medical chart at the initial visit.

Statistical Analysis

Status of PVD and need for DME therapy were evaluated among genders, ethnicities, and diabetes type using a Chi-squared test. Comparisons of age and HbA1c relative to PVD or therapy status were evaluated with a student's t-test. Cox proportional hazards model was used to evaluate the independent effects of PVD status, gender, ethnicity, age, HbA1c, baseline lens status, and diabetes type on the incidence of treatment for DME. A two-tailed P value of less than .05 was considered significant. SAS version 9.4 (2012; SAS Institute, Cary, NC) was used for data analysis.

Results

Data were collected for 689 eyes from 374 patients with diabetes and without PDR, DME, or prior DR/DME treatment. Eighty-three untreated eyes were removed from the dataset because follow-up was less than 2 years. Of those remaining eyes, 108 eyes had missing HbA1c data, two had unknown diabetes type, and two had unknown lens status. After removal of these eyes, data for 494 eyes from 274 patients were included in the final analysis. A total of 34 eyes (6.9%) were classified as having a complete PVD. Mean follow-up time for eyes with a PVD (1,470.9 days ± 553.0 days) was longer than eyes without a PVD (1,176.9 days ± 725.4 days; P = .004). On average, patients with PVD were older than patients without PVD (Table 1; 70.7 years ± 9.9 years vs. 60.8 years ± 11.5 years; P < .001). Complete PVD at baseline was also more frequent in non-African-Americans compared with African-Americans (P = .03). We did not observe any gender differences in relation to PVD status (P = .94).

Cohort Demographics

Table 1:

Cohort Demographics

A total of 146 eyes (29.6%) received treatment for DME during follow-up. Patients receiving therapy were younger than those not receiving therapy (Table 1; 59.1 years ± 11.5 years vs. 62.5 years ± 11.6 years; P = .003). The need for at least one DME treatment was more frequent in males versus females (P = .04). More patients on insulin therapy were treated for DME than patients not taking insulin (P = .01). Patients receiving treatment had higher HbA1c levels than those not requiring treatment (8.5 ± 2.4 vs. 7.8 ± 1.9; P < .001). Only 5.9% of eyes with a complete PVD required treatment during follow-up, whereas 31% of eyes without a complete PVD required treatment (Table 1; P = .001, Chi-squared).

We performed a multivariate analysis to determine any independent effects of PVD status on need for DME treatment. Cox proportional hazards modeling showed that after adjusting for age, ethnicity, gender, HbA1c, and diabetes type, a complete PVD was significantly associated with a reduction in hazard for DME therapy when compared to no PVD (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.05–0.73; P = .02) (Table 2). All other classifications of incomplete PVD (Stage 1–3) were not protective (Table 2). In our cohort, female gender was independently associated with a decrease in hazard for DME therapy after controlling for other variables (HR: 0.68; 95% CI, 0.48–0.95; P = .02). Elevated HgbA1c was associated with an increase in hazard for DME therapy (HR: 1.11; 95% CI, 1.03–1.20; P = .005) (Table 2). Furthermore, therapeutic intervention was required earlier for patients with any baseline vitreomacular adhesions compared to those with a complete PVD, as visualized by a time-to-treatment analysis (Figure 3).

Multivariate Cox Regression Analyses on Probability of Intervention for DME Therapy

Table 2:

Multivariate Cox Regression Analyses on Probability of Intervention for DME Therapy

Time to treatment analysis in relation to vitreomacular interface status. Total number of eyes at risk shown at 500-day intervals. PVD = posterior vitreous detachment

Figure 3.

Time to treatment analysis in relation to vitreomacular interface status. Total number of eyes at risk shown at 500-day intervals. PVD = posterior vitreous detachment

Discussion

In this study, multivariate analysis identified lower HbA1c, female gender, and complete PVD as factors associated with reduced treatment burden in DME. The association between elevated HbA1c levels and need for treatment in DME is well-established.13 Similarly, there is precedent for an association between female gender and reduced severity of DR and DME.14,15 In contrast, the effects of PVD on treatment need in DME are less well-understood. To investigate such effects, we classified the various stages of vitreous detachment (PVD Stage 0–4) using baseline SD-OCT findings (Figure 1). Our sub-analysis showed that any degree of vitreomacular adhesion at the baseline visit was associated with earlier and more frequent need for DME therapy (Table 2, Figure 3). A previous analysis conducted by the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCR.net), showed that vitrectomy is beneficial in eyes with macular edema and VMT.16 Since eyes with overt VMT were excluded from this study, our findings are novel and reveal an important variable to consider in the management of diabetic eye disease.

Possible explanations for our findings are that any posterior vitreoretinal adhesions may serve as a conduit for retinal neovascularization or that these adhesions, no matter how small, may contribute to subclinical vitreoretinal traction. However, it is also possible that local oxygen tension increases sufficiently to suppress retinal VEGF secretion only in conditions where complete PVDs are present. Such a model would be consistent with data in vitrectomized eyes.5 Complete PVD may also account for the inverse relationship between degree of myopia and severity of DR that has been observed in numerous other studies, since myopic eyes are expected to have higher rates of complete PVD.17,18 A major limitation of this study is that it was not poised to address these contributions, since data on refractive errors were unavailable from both participating centers — both of which are tertiary academic referral centers for retinal disease. However, our findings are hypothesis-generating, suggesting an independent effect of PVD on need for DME treatment, and justify prospective analysis with more complete consideration of other confounding variable, such as myopia.

We could have used several methods to assess VMI status. Slit-lamp biomicroscopy, the most common method for inspecting the vitreous, has 80% sensitivity for detecting PVD in non-diabetic eyes.8 However, this method may be confounded in patients with diabetes due to the high prevalence of vitreoschisis, which is the splitting of the posterior vitreous during syneresis.19 In vitreoschisis, the posterior aspect of the vitreous remains attached to the retina, although more anterior layers separate away from the retina.20 Compared to the general population, eyes of patients with diabetes are more likely to exhibit both clinical and ultrastructural vitreoschisis and this may be caused by increases in glycation end products and hyperglycemia-induced crosslinking of collagen.1,21 On clinical examination, the anterior layer of the split vitreous may look similar to a shallow PVD even when a posterior layer of the vitreous cortex is still attached to the inner limiting membrane (Figures 2C and 2D).22 Like biomicroscopic methods, ultrasonographic assessments of PVD can be confounded by vitreoschisis. In comparison to these methods, SD-OCT is less prone to false positive errors given its greater resolution of vitreous details. Perhaps even more accurate will be the use of swept-source OCT (SS-OCT) coupled to widefield imaging, which will provide greater depths of imaging and the capability of viewing more of the posterior vitreomacular contact zone. Such technologies were not widely available at the outset of this study.

A limitation of using SD-OCT to assess for a complete PVD is that the detached posterior vitreous cortex may not be visible due to the narrow imaging window of modern tomography machines, relative to the vitreous cavity. Conversely, it is challenging to visualize the posterior vitreous on OCT when the vitreous is completely attached to the retina as it may be difficult to distinguish from the internal limiting membrane. However, several vitreous structures can be observed on SD-OCT as evidence of an attached vitreous, such as the bursa pre-macularis, posterior vitreous cortex, hyperreflective vitreous strands, and granular opacities.11,23,24 Although SD-OCT has its own limitations in detecting these structures, manipulation of the contrast and gain on the scan enhances their visualization (Figures 2C and 2D).23–25 Such techniques allowed us to make reliable PVD determinations in all cases included in this report. Several eyes diagnosed with a complete PVD on slit-lamp biomicroscopy were classified differently after visualization of posterior vitreous structures on OCT scan, indicating a completely attached vitreous (Figure 2). These examples illustrate the limitations of slit-lamp biomicroscopy in evaluating PVD.

There are caveats to this retrospective study. First, patients who initially presented with incomplete PVD may have developed a PVD over the course of our observation period, which was — on average — 39.4 months. Despite this caveat, initial PVD status is independently associated with DME treatment by multivariable analysis, and this finding warrants further analysis in a prospective format. Second, the limited view in a standard macular cube scan (6 mm × 6 mm) compared to a widened view (12 mm × 9 mm) with SS-OCT made the evaluation of PVD more difficult. However, our use of independent graders minimized errors in grading, and all OCT scans included in this study were successfully graded. Third, not all potential variables contributing to treatment need in DME were measured, namely refractive status. Myopia is a protective factor in the development of DR and DME, and therefore could have influenced rate of treatment between groups since complete PVD is more likely in myopic eyes,17,18 but we were unable to assess the potential contributions of refractive errors in relation to PVD status and DME treatment since these data were not available in our cohort. Lastly, the relatively small sample size and higher mean age of patients with complete PVD may have affected outcomes. However, in a multivariate Cox regression analysis taking into account both the small sample of patients with complete PVD and mean age difference between groups, PVD status was an independent predictor of need for treatment whereas age was not (Table 2).

The strengths of this study include its large sample size of 494 eyes and its use of a sensitive, relatively unbiased method to grade vitreoretinal interface status. Our findings suggest that a complete PVD is protective in terms of need for treatment in patients with DME. With technological advancements, including SS-OCT, better visualization of VMI details may reveal more about the relationship of the vitreous to diabetic eye disease and provide more precise prognostic information for those suffering from it.

References

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Cohort Demographics

PVD n (%)No PVD n (%)P ValueTherapy n (%)No Therapy n (%)P Value

Eyes34 (6.9)460 (93.1)146 (29.6)348 (70.4)

Gender.94.04
  Male13 (38.2)173 (37.6)65 (44.5)121 (34.8)
  Female21 (61.8)287 (62.4)81 (55.5)227 (65.2)

Mean age (years)70.7 ± 9.960.8 ± 11.5< .00159.1 ± 11.562.5 ± 11.6.003

Diabetes Type.05.41
  10 (0)46 (10.0)16 (11.0)30 (8.6)
  234 (100.0)414 (90.0)130 (89.0)318 (91.4)

HbA1c7.4 ± 1.98.0 ± 2.1.088.5 ± 2.47.8 ± 1.9< .001

Ethnicity.02.57
  Caucasian and Other23 (67.6)221 (48.0)75 (51.4)169 (48.6)
  African American11 (32.4)239 (52.0)71 (48.6)179 (51.4)

Lens Status.04.06
  Phakic22 (64.7)364 (79.1)122 (83.6)264 (75.9)
  Pseudophakic12 (35.3)96 (20.9)24 (16.4)84 (24.1)

Hypertension.61.18
  Yes19 (100)305 (93.8)79 (97.5)245 (93.2)
  No020 (6.2)2 (2.5)18 (6.8)

Hyperlipidemia.18.88
  Yes17 (6.6)240 (73.8)60 (74.1)197 (74.9)
  No2 (2.3)85 (26.2)21 (25.9)66 (25.1)

Insulin Use.05.01
  Yes9 (47.4)223 (68.6)64 (79.0)168 (63.9)
  No10 (52.6)102 (31.4)17 (21.0)95 (36.1)

DME Treatment.001
  No Treatment32 (94.1)316 (90.8)
  ≥ 1 Therapy2 (5.9)32 (9.2)

Multivariate Cox Regression Analyses on Probability of Intervention for DME Therapy

Adjusted HR (95% CI)P Value

PVD Stage
  0 (n = 299)Ref
  1 (n = 112)0.86 (0.57, 1.30).48
  2 (n = 18)2.00 (0.90, 4.44).09
  3 (n = 31)1.05 (0.52, 2.12).90
  4 (n = 34)0.18 (0.05, 0.73).02

Lens Status
  Phakic (n = 386)Ref
  Pseudophakic (n = 108)0.70 (0.44, 1.12).14

Diabetes Type
  1 (n = 46)0.89 (0.40, 1.98).78
  2 (n = 448)Ref

HbA1c1.11 (1.03, 1.20).005

Gender
  Male (n = 308)Ref
  Female (n = 186)0.68 (0.48, 0.95).02

Age
  ≤39 (n = 22)Ref
  40–49 (n = 37)0.78 (0.28, 2.22).64
  50–59 (n = 141)0.59 (0.23, 1.48).26
  60–69 (n = 179)0.76 (0.29, 2.01).58
  ≥70 (n = 115)0.50 (0.17, 1.45).20

Ethnicity
  Caucasian and other (n = 244)Ref
  African-American (n = 250)0.89 (0.62, 1.28).54
Authors

From the Department of Ophthalmology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis (WA, HP, SK); the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (KP, RR); and the Department of Medicine, University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri (YKB).

Supported by NIH/NEI grant EY025269 (RR), NIH/NIDDK grant T32DK007120 (YKB), a Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness (RR), the Horncrest Foundation Support (RR), UMKC School of Medicine Sarah Morrison Research Award (YKB), NIH/NEI grant P30 EY002687 to Washington University School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and an Unrestricted Award to Washington University School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences from Research to Prevent Blindness.

The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

The authors would like to thank Dr. David Beebe for his insightful discussions related to this topic, which sparked the questions inspiring this study.

Address correspondence to Rithwick Rajagopal, MD, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8096, 660 South Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110; email: rajagopalr@wustl.edu.

Received: September 16, 2018
Accepted: March 22, 2019

10.3928/23258160-20191031-13

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