PURPOSE: To demonstrate the mechanism by which retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) tears occur in eyes with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treated with intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT). DESIGN: Retrospective observational case series. METHODS: OCT images of 8 eyes that developed RPE tears following the administration of intravitreal anti-VEGF agents for neovascular AMD were evaluated. Pretear and posttear images were compared in order to elucidate the mechanism by which RPE tears occur in this setting. RESULTS: In all eyes, pretear images revealed a vascularized pigment epithelial detachment (PED) containing hyperreflective material consistent with choroidal neovascularization (CNV). This CNV was adherent to the undersurface of the RPE and created contractile folds in the RPE contour. In 6 eyes, contractile neovascular tissue spanned the PED, causing outward bowing of the Bruch membrane and a peaked appearance to the overlying RPE monolayer. RPE tears occurred after the first anti-VEGF injection in 6 of 8 eyes. The posttear OCT images showed a discontinuity in the RPE with the CNV adherent to the retracted RPE. In all eyes, the RPE ruptured along a segment of bare RPE not in contact with the CNV or Bruch membrane. CONCLUSIONS: Eyes with vascularized PEDs secondary to AMD may show specific OCT findings that increase the risk for RPE tear following intravitreal anti-VEGF injection. Rapid involution and contraction of neovascular tissue adherent to the undersurface of the RPE may impart a substantial contractile force that tears this already-strained tissue layer.
American Journal of Ophthalmology, 2013, Vol 156, Issue 5