Degradation of Contrast Sensitivity Function Following Posterior Vitreous Detachment


To evaluate the effect of posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) on contrast sensitivity function (CSF) in previously normal eyes, with the hypothesis that PVD reduces CSF.


Prospective observational case series.


At a single clinical practice 28 eyes were evaluated: 8 eyes of 8 adults (mean age 54.4 ± 10.1 years; range 39–68 years) with normal CSF documented by Freiburg Acuity Contrast Testing (Weber index: %W) who subsequently experienced PVD, as confirmed by ultrasonography and optical coherence tomography; 8 fellow eyes without PVD; and 12 control eyes: 9 eyes with PVD in patients who chose observation and 3 fellow eyes without PVD.


At study entry there was no significant difference in CSF of fellow eye controls (mean 1.44 ± 0.27 %W; range 1.06–2.00 %W) and eyes that subsequently developed PVD (1.81 ± 0.61 %W; P = .146; range 1.01–2.69 %W). Following PVD there was a 52.5% reduction in CSF (2.76 ± 0.30 %W; P = .001; range 2.25–3.14 %W). CSF in the patients who chose limited vitrectomy (2.51 ± 0.46 %W; range 2.03–3.06 %W) was 41.8% worse than in the eyes with PVD of patients who chose observation (1.46 ± 0.21 %W; P = .001; range 1.08–1.87 %W). After vitrectomy, CSF improved by an average of 43.2%, normalizing in each case at 1 month (CSF 1.51 ± 0.28 %W; P = .001; range 1.14–2.00 %W), 3 months (1.38 ± 0.10 %W; P = .0002; range 1.28–1.51 %W), and 12 months (1.34 ± 0.34 %W; P = .0001; range 1.01–1.89 %W, n = 5) postoperatively, attaining the same CSF as the control fellow eyes (1.34 ± 0.20 %W; range 1.06–1.56 %W).


PVD is associated with significant reduction in CSF of previously normal eyes. This quantifiable negative impact on visual function can distinguish patients who are not significantly bothered by vitreous floaters from those with clinically significant symptoms.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is separation of the posterior vitreous cortex from the inner limiting membrane of the retina that results from age-related liquefaction of the vitreous gel concurrent with weakening of vitreoretinal adhesion. It was previously postulated that PVD occurs acutely, beginning posteriorly and progressing peripherally with entry of liquefied vitreous into the retrocortical (preretinal) space, leading to separation of the posterior vitreous cortex from the retina. It has recently been proposed, however, that age-related PVD begins insidiously as a localized separation of the posterior vitreous cortex from the perifoveal retina, progressing slowly over months or years until its completion at the time of vitreopapillary separation. The effects of age-related PVD are usually benign, as most patients are asymptomatic and PVD often goes clinically undetected until separation from the optic disc produces symptoms related to entopic phenomena from the posterior vitreous cortex and/or a Weiss ring. Although many patients adapt, some patients are very bothered by PVD-induced floaters, even in the absence of hemorrhage and inflammation.

Although previous studies have shown that contrast sensitivity function (CSF) is abnormal in patients with vitreous floaters, those studies compared floater patients with non-floater controls. No previous studies have prospectively documented changes in a group of individuals who served as their own controls. The following presents a prospective study of patients with previously documented normal CSF and new-onset PVD that resulted in clinically significant bothersome floaters. As a secondary outcome measure, CSF was assessed postoperatively in a subgroup of these eyes that underwent limited vitrectomy; however, surgery for vitreous opacities is not the subject of this research endeavor.


Study Design

This prospective, controlled study was performed in a single clinical practice setting. Institutional review board approval was obtained (St Joseph Health Human Research Protection Program) and approved for the prospective study of quality-of-life changes and visual function changes before and after vitrectomy for vitreous opacities. The study adhered to the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Informed consent was obtained from all subjects prior to their participation. The main outcome measure was contrast sensitivity (CSF).


Inclusion criteria were the absence of PVD, the presence of normal CSF at study entry, and the subsequent development of PVD in only 1 eye, allowing the fellow eyes to serve as controls. During the period 2013–2015, there were 8 consecutive patients (mean age 54.4 ± 10.1 years; range 39–68 years) who met these criteria, with no history of eye disease except for myopia in 7 cases (range −1.75 to −6.75 diopters; status post laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis in 2 cases) and bilateral pseudophakia (monofocal intraocular lens) in 1 case.

An average of 13.4 ± 7.9 (range 8–17) months later, each patient presented with the sudden onset of unilateral floaters and was found to have PVD documented by B-scan ultrasonography (AVISO; Quantel Medical, Clermont-Ferrand, France; Figure 1 ) and/or combined spectral-domain optical coherence tomography–confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy imaging (OCT-SLO; Optos, Marlborough, Massachusetts, USA; axial resolution of <6 μm and transverse resolution of 20 μm; Figure 2 ). Fellow eyes had no evidence of PVD, and served as controls.

Figure 1

Ultrasonography of posterior vitreous detachment. (Top) B-scan ultrasound of the left eye in a 54-year-old man before posterior vitreous detachment (Case 3, Table ). Prior to posterior vitreous detachment, visual acuity = 0.80 and contrast sensitivity function = 1.69 %W in this eye. (Bottom) Ultrasound of the same eye 1 year later when the patient presented with the sudden onset of floaters. Posterior vitreous detachment is evident by the appearance of the posterior vitreous cortex (white arrow). After posterior vitreous detachment, visual acuity remained 0.80 in this eye, but contrast sensitivity function declined by 46.7% from 1.69 %W to 2.48 %W. A limited vitrectomy was subsequently performed in this eye for persistently bothersome floaters. At 3 months after surgery, contrast sensitivity function improved by 47.2% from a preoperative level of 2.48 %W to 1.31 %W, which was actually superior to the contrast sensitivity function of 1.69 %W prior to posterior vitreous detachment. At 1 year postoperatively, contrast sensitivity function remained improved (1.89 %W) compared to the preoperative value. Visual acuity remained 0.80 throughout.

Figure 2

Optical coherence tomography of posterior vitreous detachment. Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography–confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (OCT-SLO) image of the right eye of a 41-year-old myopic man (Case 4, Table ) with a chronic history of bothersome floaters in the right eye. On study entry, visual acuity was 20/30 (0.67) and contrast sensitivity function was 1.03 %W. Fourteen months later the patient reported a sudden increase in floaters. Visual acuity was still 20/30 (0.67), but contrast sensitivity function diminished by 147% to 2.54 %W. (Top) OCT demonstrated posterior vitreous detachment (posterior vitreous cortex is indicated by the white arrows). (Bottom) SLO demonstrated the vitreous opacities (black arrows). Following limited vitrectomy, contrast sensitivity function improved to 1.42% W at 1 month postoperatively. This improvement persisted at 3 months (1.38 %W) and 12 months (1.41 %W) with a final contrast sensitivity function improvement of 45%.

Six of these subjects chose to undergo surgery (see below) and as a further comparison, the CSF measured in the 6 eyes with PVD of these 6 individuals was compared with 9 eyes with PVD in 6 patients who elected observation without surgery, since these individuals did not perceive their floaters as sufficiently bothersome. Among these 6 control subjects, 3 did not have PVD in the fellow eye, whereas 3 did have PVD in the fellow eye. For the 3 subjects with bilateral PVD, the average CSF of both eyes was calculated for statistical comparison with the eyes that underwent vitrectomy.

Vision Testing

The impact of PVD on vision was assessed objectively using best-corrected visual acuity (VA; Snellen, expressed in decimal notation) and CSF testing with the Freiburg Acuity Contrast Test (FrACT). FrACT operates on standard backlit light-emitting diode (LED) computer display monitors with luminance calibration performed prior to each evaluation. Testing was performed at 2.9 meters from the subject’s eye, level to the LED monitor, employing 24 testing trials at a spatial frequency of 5 cycles per degree, using a tumble Landolt C (sized to 20/200) in 8 different orientations. All subjects wore correction if ametropic and were dark adapted for at least 3 minutes before testing. The Weber index, defined as

%W = [ ( Luminance max − Luminance min ) / Luminance max ]
is automatically calculated by the program. A higher Weber index (%W) reflects lower CSF. FrACT has previously been shown to be a reliable and accurate measure of CSF in various clinical settings, including PVD. Reproducibility of the FrACT test in our institute was previously found to be 92.1% and in the present study was determined to be 93.8% (coefficient of variance = 0.062).


All patients were advised to attempt coping with the symptoms before considering treatment. After an average of 6.4 ± 2.1 months, 6 patients were unable to cope and underwent sutureless 25 G vitrectomy, as previously described.

Statistical Analyses

Statistical analysis was performed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) 22.0 (IBM, Chicago, Illinois, USA). Independent samples t tests were used to compare mean baseline parameters (VA, CSF) between control eyes and eyes with subsequent PVD. Difference in mean post-PVD CSF between the patients electing to have surgery and the nonsurgical subgroup was evaluated with an independent samples t test. Comparison of mean CSF between eyes at baseline vs post-PVD and baseline vs post-vitrectomy was performed with paired samples t tests. P values less than .05 were considered statistically significant.


At study entry, all 28 eyes had normal CSF (mean 1.47 ± 0.53 %W, range 1.01–2.69 %W), as compared to previous studies. Upon initial evaluation, there were no statistically significant differences in CSF between control eyes (CSF 1.44 ± 0.27 %W; range 1.06–2.00 %W) and the eyes that subsequently developed symptomatic PVD (CSF 1.81 ± 0.61 %W, range 1.01–2.69 %W; P = .146; Table ). Further, baseline VA (Snellen decimal) was not statistically significantly different ( P = .708) between control eyes (VA 0.88 ± 0.13) and subsequently affected eyes (VA 0.86 ± 0.13).

For each subject, ultrasound determined that there was no PVD in either eye at study entry. However, an average of 13.4 ± 7.9 (range 8–17) months after study entry, 8 patients presented with the sudden onset of unilateral floaters. In each case, ultrasound documented that PVD had developed in the eye with floaters ( Figure 1 ). When the detached posterior vitreous cortex was near the retina, OCT imaging confirmed the presence of PVD ( Figure 2 ). Following PVD, CSF declined in the affected eyes by an average of 52.5%, from 1.81 ± 0.61 %W (range 1.01–2.69 %W) to 2.76 ± 0.30 %W (range 2.25–3.14 %W) ( P = .001; Table , Figure 3 ). Mean VA did not significantly change in eyes before (0.86 ± 0.13) and after (0.83 ± 0.11) PVD ( P = .685).

Jan 5, 2017 | Posted by in OPHTHALMOLOGY | Comments Off on Degradation of Contrast Sensitivity Function Following Posterior Vitreous Detachment

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