Treatment of paraneoplastic visual loss with intravenous immunoglobulin: report of 3 cases

J Guy, N Aptsiauri
Archives of Ophthalmology 1999, 117 (4): 471-7

BACKGROUND: Paraneoplastic visual loss is an autoimmune disorder believed to be caused by the remote effects of cancer on the retina (cancer-associated retinopathy [CAR]) or optic nerve. Both disorders may result in rapid and complete blindness. Spontaneous recovery of vision has not been reported. The serum of patients with CAR contains autoantibodies against recoverin, enolase, or unidentified retinal proteins. Autopsy examination results of eyes of blind patients with CAR show complete absence of the retinal neurons involved in phototransduction. Corticosteroids and plasmapheresis are the only treatment options previously described.

OBJECTIVE: To treat paraneoplastic visual loss.

DESIGN AND METHODS: Three patients with metastatic cancer developed rapidly progressive loss of vision. The first patient had visual acuity of hand movements in each eye before intravenous immunoglobulin treatment. The second patient had visual acuity of light perception in both eyes. The third patient's visual acuity was 20/400 OD and 20/20 OS. Diagnostic tests included magnetic resonance imaging of the head and cytologic examination of the cerebrospinal fluid to exclude metastasis as the cause of visual loss and then an electroretinogram and serum tests for autoantibodies against retinal antigens to confirm the clinical diagnosis of CAR. Patients 1 and 2 were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin (400 mg/kg per day) for 5 days; however, patient 3 received only a single dose due to adverse effects consisting of shortness of breath and itching.

RESULTS: Within 24 hours of taking the first dose of intravenous immunoglobulin, the visual acuity of patient 1 improved from hand movements only in both eyes to 20/50 OD and 20/200 OS. After the third day of treatment, visual acuity in the left eye further improved to 20/40. Even with the improved acuity, Goldmann visual field perimetry results showed poor responses in both eyes. However, 2 weeks later there was marked visual field improvement, and visual acuity was maintained at 20/50 OD and 20/40 OS. Patient 2 had no improvements and continued to have light perception in both eyes. Patient 3 had improvements in visual field defects but remained 20/400 OD and 20/20 OS.

CONCLUSION: Intravenous immunoglobulin may be another treatment option offered to patients with paraneoplastic visual loss in addition to corticosteroids or plasmapheresis because a review of the medical literature has shown no spontaneous improvements of visual function without treatment.

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