The authors describe the natural history of subfoveal subretinal hemorrhage (for which laser treatment was not indicated) in age-related macular degeneration.
A retrospective review of data was performed at a tertiary retinal referral center for 41 eyes from 40 patients with age-related macular degeneration examined during an 18- month period. All patients had at least 3 months of follow-up, as well as subfoveal subretinal hemorrhage that made up more than 50% of a neovascular lesion—as documented by fluorescein angiography—and therefore, did not meet criteria for laser treatment. The number of lines of visual acuity lost or gained in each eye during follow-up was calculated; presenting characteristics were evaluated as predictors of visual outcome.
A progressive loss of visual acuity from baseline was observed throughout the 3- year follow-up period in most eyes. At 36 months, a mean of 3.5 lines of visual acuity had been lost in the 16 eyes examined; 44% of eyes had lost 6 or more lines of visual acuity. The percentage of patients who sustained a spontaneous improvement of 3 or more lines of visual acuity decreased from 31 % at 12 months to 21 % at 36 months of follow-up. Univariate linear regression analysis demonstrated significant relationships of initial size of the hemorrhage, elevation of the retina by the hemorrhage, and size of the entire lesion with visual outcome at the 12-month and 36-month examinations (P<0.05).
Although this study confirms that some eyes with subfoveal subretinal hemorrhage associated with age-related macular degeneration have poor prognoses, the visual acuity of other eyes did not deteriorate. These findings underscore the importance of evaluating the role of therapeutic interventions such as surgery to remove subretinal hemorrhage in randomized clinical trials.