Controversy exists regarding the best method for biopsy of uveal melanoma. We describe our transvitreal technique and evaluate the safety of this technique as well as the efficacy for obtaining sample for prognostic genetic profiling.
Description of surgical technique and retrospective case series. Medical records for uveal melanoma patients who underwent transvitreal biopsy using our described technique were analyzed for tumor size, location, primary treatment, method of biopsy, and any complications thereof. Characteristics of tumors that underwent transvitreal biopsy were noted including tumor size, location, or presence of subretinal fluid, to see whether these affected surgeon preference for biopsy modality. A cohort of contemporaneous uveal melanoma patients who underwent biopsy through a transscleral technique served as a comparator group for these patient, tumor, and complication factors.
A total of 27 patients aged 27.2 to 88.6 years (mean 64.8) underwent transvitreal biopsy using our described technique between 2013 and 2016. There were 15 small, 10 medium, and 2 large tumors at diagnosis with the majority (n = 17) posterior to the equator. Intraoperative complications included a clot or small trickle of blood at the biopsy site in 20 (74.1%) of patients, small localized subretinal hemorrhage in 8 (29.6%), small vitreous hemorrhage in 4 (14.8%), and small transient choroidal detachments in 1 patient (3.6%). When subretinal hemorrhage occurred, it was almost always into a pre-existing pocket of subretinal fluid (P = 0.0093). However, the presence of subretinal fluid was not associated with the decision to proceed with any biopsy (P = 0.36) or transvitreal biopsy specifically (P = 1.00). By 3 months, subretinal and/or vitreous hemorrhage resolved in essentially all cases. There were no cases of iatrogenic retinal detachment or extraocular tumor spread over a mean follow-up of 41.7 (range: 20–62.1) months. Adequate tissue for gene expression profiling was obtained from each biopsy. The comparator group of patients undergoing transscleral biopsy including 21 uveal melanomas in 20 patients (one eye had two melanomas). Transvitreal biopsies were more common in patients with small (n = 15; P < 0.0001), posterior (n = 17; P < 0.0001) tumors, compared with patients who underwent transscleral biopsy during the same period.
This technique can be used for small or posterior tumors or for small anterior tumors where a transscleral approach would risk tumor perforation. Complications were minor, transient, and self-limited. Biopsy yields for molecular prognosis were adequate in all cases. The presence of subretinal fluid may be considered a relative contraindication because it may lead to subretinal hemorrhage in the fluid pocket but did not dissuade us from using this transvitreal technique for patients who would benefit from it.