Acta Ophthalmologica 2014

Review Article Prophylactic treatment of retinal breaks – a systematic review Søren Blindbæk and Jakob Grauslund Department of Ophthalmology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark

ABSTRACT. Prophylactic treatment of retinal breaks has been examined in several studies and reviews, but so far, no studies have successfully applied a systematic approach. In the present systematic review, we examined the need of follow-up after posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) – diagnosed by slit-lamp biomicroscopy or Goldmann 3-mirror examination – with regard to retinal breaks as well as the indication of prophylactic treatment in asymptomatic and symptomatic breaks. A total of 2941 publications were identified with PubMed and Medline searches. Two manual search strategies were used for papers in English published before 2012. Four levels of screening identified 13 studies suitable for inclusion in this systematic review. No meta-analysis was conducted as no data suitable for statistical analysis were identified. In total, the initial examination after symptomatic PVD identified 85–95% of subsequent retinal breaks. Additional retinal breaks were only revealed at follow-up in patients where a full retinal examination was compromised at presentation by, for example, vitreous haemorrhage. Asymptomatic and symptomatic retinal breaks progressed to rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) in 0–13.8% and 35–47% of cases, respectively. The cumulated incidence of RRD despite prophylactic treatment was 2.1–8.8%. The findings in this review suggest that follow-up after symptomatic PVD is only necessary in cases of incomplete retinal examination at presentation. Prophylactic treatment of symptomatic retinal breaks must be considered, whereas no unequivocal conclusion could be reached with regard to prophylactic treatment of asymptomatic retinal breaks. Key words: posterior vitreous detachment – prophylaxis – retinal breaks – review – rhegmatogenous retinal detachment – treatment

Acta Ophthalmol. ª 2014 Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica Foundation. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

doi: 10.1111/aos.12447

Introduction Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment (RRD) is a severe potentially vision threatening condition, caused by subretinal fluid accumulating in the potential space between the neurosensory retina and the underlying retinal pigment epithelium. As derived from the name, rhegmatogenous retinal detachment is

preceded by a discontinuity or break in the retina. The incidence of retinal breaks or tears in the general population has been found in 2–9% of eyes examined in autopsy studies and clinical series. (Okun 1961; Halpern 1966; Byer 1967; Rutnin & Schepens 1967; Barishak & Stein 1972; Foos 1975). Several studies have tried to identify when prophylactic treatment is indicated as only a minor proportion of

retinal breaks will progress to retinal detachment. (Mitry et al. 2011) (Kramer & Benson 1977; Markham & Chignell 1977; Meyer-Schwickerath & Fried 1980; Kazahaya 1995; Wilkinson 1999, 2000, 2012; Carvounis & Holz 2006) A single attempt has been made to conduct a high-quality review which only included randomized controlled trials. (Wilkinson 2012) Unfortunately, no studies of this design were identified for eligibility, leaving this attempt of a systematic review inconclusive. The remaining reviews were all based only on observational studies of variable quality (evidence level 3 and 4), all without a systematic approach. Given the lack of high-quality research on this subject, the aim of this study was to provide the best available evidence on (i) the risk of retinal tears after posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) with regard to the need of follow-up, (ii) the risk of progression of non-treated asymptomatic and symptomatic retinal tears to RRD and (iii) the effect of prophylactic treatment as prevention of RRD. From a clinical point of view, we wanted to examine whether prophylactic treatment is indicated in patients with asymptomatic and symptomatic retinal tears.

Methods This study was performed in accordance with the guidelines outlined by preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA). (Moher et al. 2009) The search strategy was set up to minimize the influence of heterogeneous


Acta Ophthalmologica 2014

populations on the analysis. No metaanalysis was conducted as none of the included studies presented data that were suitable for statistical calculation. A search was performed with search terms as follows in the PubMed and Medline databases: (retina[Title/Abstract] OR retinal [Title/Abstract]) AND (break[Title/ Abstract] OR breaks[Title/Abstract] OR tear[Title/Abstract] OR tears [Title/Abstract] OR hole[Title/ Abstract] OR holes[Title/Abstract]) AND (detachment OR detachments). This search yielded 2933 hits (Fig. 1). Two additional manual search strategies were used to identify additional studies. Firstly, references of the studies identified from the electronic search strategy were screened. Secondly, a specific search of authors with multiple publications on the subject of retinal tears and retinal detachment was performed. These efforts yielded

2933 studies identified via PubMed/Medline

1290 studies identified for initial screening

170 abstracts retrieved

eight studies not identified by the initial search that fulfilled the criteria of eligibility in so far that full-text articles were retrieved. None of the studies identified in this manner was finally included in this review. In the selection process, the search was limited only to include studies published before 2012. Animal studies, letters, reviews, duplicates, comments and publications in languages other than English were excluded. Studies that were obviously not primarily related to retinal tears were discarded by screening the titles, that is, studies that described or compared surgical procedures for retinal detachment surgery, studies on ocular trauma other than cataract surgery and studies on diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, coloboma or other primary ocular or systemic diseases known to predispose to vitreoretinal disease other than myopia. Also studies

8 studies identified via manual search strategies

o o o o o o o o

Case reports: 601 Comments: 22 Letters: 56 Reviews: 153 Animal studies: 113 Not English: 689 After 01/01/2012: 14 Duplicates removed: 3

1120 studies excluded: o Other primary disease (ocular or systemic) o Comparison or descriptions of methods for detachment surgery o Trauma to the eye other than cataract surgery o Macular hole o Giant retinal tear o 101 studies not relevant o Two studies not identified

67 full-text articles retrieved

13 articles suitable for inclusion

o < 20 eyes: 2 o No data published: 8 o Multiple publications on same cohort: 2 o Data not consecutive: 4 o Estimation of data: 1 o Incomparable data: 37

Fig. 1. Flowchart demonstrating the selection process.


on macular holes and giant retinal tears were excluded as these conditions were considered mandatory vision threatening and therefore required treatment. For the remaining 170 studies, abstracts were retrieved. Of these, non-interventional studies on symptoms of vitreoretinal disease, methods for identification of retinal tears and studies otherwise not of relevance (i.e. not related to the aim of this review) were excluded. Of the remaining 69 studies, 67 full-text articles were reviewed. Two studies could not be identified as full-text articles. Of the full-text articles, studies with no published data and studies based on estimated data created upon theoretical considerations were excluded. When studies that used the same cohorts of eyes/patients were identified, the study with the largest number of eyes/ patients was selected. To minimize the impact of selection bias, only studies that included consecutive patients were included as well as studies with cohorts 6 months




2 (2.1)

6 month – 6 years




4 (3.2)

>2 years




23 (4.8)

>6 month




25 (8.3)

18 (6)

6 month – 9 years

1974 1982 1960

48 177 88


– 13 (7.3) –

LPC, laser photocoagulation, RCP, retinocryopexy.

2 (4.2) 8 (4.5) 4 (4.6)

6 month – 10 years >6 month >3 month

Acta Ophthalmologica 2014

regard to risk factors. For this reason, the composition of eyes with high-risk asymptomatic breaks, symptomatic breaks, breaks in fellow eyes to detachment and varying degrees of myopia differed markedly in the populations of the individual studies. Subtypes of retinal breaks

The occurrence of new retinal tears in eyes in which prophylactic treatment was initially considered successful, query the general perception of RRD as a condition that originates from tractional tears as a consequence of PVD. As mentioned earlier, PVD was found in 87.6% of all RRDs, leaving 12.4% of RRDs unrelated to PVD. In a large prospective surveillance study, with a total of 1202 included cases of RRD during a 2-year period, round hole RRD comprised 40% of the RRDs not related to PVD. In all RRDs related to PVD, only tears considered to be tractional were identified (98.5% horseshoe tears and 1.5% giant retinal tears). (Mitry et al. 2011). The presence or absence of PVD was not taken into account in any of the studies that evaluated the effect of prophylactic treatment. The fact that approximately 12% of RRDs were not preceded by PVD suggests that other pathology than PVD can be present and sufficient treatment probably cannot be expected to be achieved if only considered as so. It is reasonable to assume that higher rates of success in prophylactic treatment can be achieved if only breaks considered to be tractional are evaluated, at least in terms of the incidence of new retinal breaks. However, the studies identified eyes of very heterogeneous composition with various risk factors for retinal detachment, and therefore, no substantial evidence supports this assumption. Also the possibility that not all retinal breaks were identified at the initial examination may account for an unknown proportion of the breaks stated as ‘new’. Diagnostic imaging has become a significant supplement of traditional slit-lamp examination although its clinical value is still to be prospectively examined in detail. Future studies to evaluate methods of wide-field imaging are anticipated within the years to come. (Mackenzie et al. 2007).

Discussion This review is the first to apply a stringent systematic approach. We aimed to provide a clinically applicable examination of the present literature on PVD with regard to the need of follow-up and prophylactic treatment of retinal breaks. The validity of our results is emphasized by a thoroughly documented method and selection process. Data presented in this review suggest that follow-up after symptomatic PVD is only indicated in eyes in which a full retinal examination cannot be performed at presentation. Furthermore, this study found an incidence of RRD of 0–13.8% and 35–47% in eyes with asymptomatic and symptomatic retinal breaks, respectively, compared with a cumulated incidence of subsequent retinal detachment after prophylactic treatment of 2.1–8.8%. Therefore, prophylactic treatment must be considered in symptomatic retinal breaks. On the other hand, no definite conclusion could be reached in regard to prophylactic treatment of asymptomatic retinal breaks. This systematic review was considerably limited as only observational studies and case series were identified. Therefore, meta-analysis was not possible. Especially, the lack of any randomized controlled trials was problematic when the effect of prophylactic treatment was evaluated. Due to ethical considerations with reference to the potential severity of RRD, several challenges limit the attempt to conduct randomized controlled trials. Apart from the studies on PVD, no fixed time frame of follow-up had been defined in advance in the included studies. This complicated the calculation of a cumulated incidence of events as this would usually require an exact time period. In this review, only an approximation of the cumulated incidence could therefore be reported, estimated as the number of new events during the minimum time of follow-up reported. Other limitations would be the heterogeneity of the populations in the studies included, the ageing of most of the studies and the numerous risk factors represented in various proportions in the different studies which might have caused some confounding when studies were compared.

More well-designed studies are needed to shed further light on this subject – preferably randomized controlled trials or as minimum observational studies designed to control confounding variables.

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Acta Ophthalmologica 2014

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Received on July 3rd, 2013. Accepted on April 20th, 2014. Correspondence: Jakob Grauslund, Department of Ophthalmology Odense University Hospital Sdr. Boulevard 29 DK-5000 Odense C Denmark Tel: +45 2127 1877 Fax: +45 6612 6387 Email: [email protected] The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Prophylactic treatment of retinal breaks--a systematic review.

Prophylactic treatment of retinal breaks has been examined in several studies and reviews, but so far, no studies have successfully applied a systemat...
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