Purpose: Floaters impact vision but the mechanism is unknown. We hypothesize that floaters reduce contrast sensitivity function, which can be normalized by vitrectomy, and that minimally invasive vitrectomy will have lower incidences of retinal tears (reported at 30%) and cataracts (50–76%).
Methods: Seventy-six eyes (34 phakic) with floaters were evaluated in 2 separate studies. Floater etiologies were primarily posterior vitreous detachment in 61 of 76 eyes (80%) and myopic vitreopathy in 24 of 76 eyes (32%). Minimally invasive 25G vitrectomy was performed without posterior vitreous detachment induction, leaving anterior vitreous, and using nonhollow probes for cannula extraction. Efficacy was studied prospectively (up to 9 months) in 16 floater cases with Freiburg Acuity Contrast Testing (Weber index [%W] reproducibility = 92.1%) and the National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire. Safety was separately evaluated in 60 other cases followed up on an average of 17.5 months (range, 3–51 months).
Results: Floater eyes had 67% contrast sensitivity function attenuation (4.0 ± 2.3 %W; control subjects = 2.4 ± 0.9 %W, P < 0.013). After vitrectomy, contrast sensitivity function normalized in each case at 1 week (2.0 ± 1.4 %W, P < 0.01) and remained normal at 1 month (2.0 ± 1.0 %W, P < 0.003) and 3 months to 9 months (2.2 ± 1.5 %W, P < 0.018). Visual Function Questionnaire was 28.3% lower in floater patients (73.2 ± 15.6, N = 16) than in age-matched control subjects (93.9 ± 8.0, N = 12, P < 0.001), and postoperatively improved by 29.2% (P < 0.001). In the safety study of 60 floater cases treated with vitrectomy, none developed retinal breaks, infection, or glaucoma after a mean follow-up of 17.5 months. Only 8 of 34 cases (23.5%) required cataract surgery (none younger than 53 years) at an average of 15 months postvitrectomy.
Conclusion: Floaters lower contrast sensitivity function, which normalizes after vitrectomy. Visual Function Questionnaire quantified improvement in satisfaction. Not inducing posterior vitreous detachment reduced retinal tear incidence from 30% to 0% (P < 0.007). Postvitrectomy cataract incidence was reduced from 50% to 23.5% (P < 0.02). This approach thus seems effective and safe in alleviating the visual dysfunction induced by floaters.