Purpose: The purpose of the study is to report the incidence of changes of the retinal nerve fiber layer in the early postoperative period after internal limiting membrane peeling for idiopathic macular hole and epiretinal membrane surgery.
Methods: Interventional, noncomparative retrospective case series. Fifty-six eyes of 55 patients with an epiretinal membrane and 33 eyes of 31 patients with macular hole underwent pars plana vitrectomy and internal limiting membrane peeling. All patients received a complete ophthalmic examination, infrared and autofluorescence photography, and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography preoperatively and also at approximately 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months postoperatively. Vitrectomy and gas tamponade were performed with internal limiting membrane peeling after staining with Brilliant Peel. The main outcome measures were the presence of postoperative swelling of the arcuate retinal nerve fiber layer on spectral-domain optical coherence tomography, infrared and autofluorescence photographs, and its effect on best-corrected visual acuity.
Results: On infrared and autofluorescence photographs, 28 (31.46%) of 89 eyes with internal limiting membrane peeling exhibited swelling of the arcuate retinal nerve fiber layer 1 week to 1 month postoperatively. Swelling of the arcuate retinal nerve fiber layer increased during the first month after surgery and resolved after a mean period of 2 months. These features were best visualized by autofluorescence imaging, as three to five dark striae originating from the optic nerve head, radiating in an arcuate pattern toward the macula. Simultaneous spectral-domain optical coherence tomography scanning through the striae indicated that they correspond to areas of focal swelling of the arcuate nerve fiber layer. No significant differences were found in eyes with or without swelling of the arcuate retinal nerve fiber layer for mean age or pre- and postoperative best-corrected visual acuity (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: Swelling of the arcuate retinal nerve fiber layer often occurs after internal limiting membrane peeling for macular hole and epiretinal membrane. It is a transient feature after surgery that does not affect visual recovery. It is best visualized using infrared and autofluorescence imaging. Simultaneous infrared and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography imaging after macular surgery can detect transient inner retinal changes, which are not visible on clinical examination.