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Surgical removal vs observation for subfoveal choroidal neovascularization, either associated with the ocular histoplasmosis syndrome or idiopathic: I. Ophthalmic findings from a randomized clinical trial: Submacular Surgery Trials (SST) Group H Trial: SST Report No. 9.

OBJECTIVE: To present visual acuity findings and related outcomes from eyes of patients enrolled in a randomized trial conducted by the Submacular Surgery Trials (SST) Research Group (SST Group H Trial) to compare surgical removal vs observation of subfoveal choroidal neovascular lesions that were either idiopathic or associated with ocular histoplasmosis.

METHODS: Eligible patients 18 years or older had subfoveal choroidal neovascularization (new or recurrent) that included a classic component on fluorescein angiography and best-corrected visual acuity of 20/50 to 20/800 in 1 eye ("study eye"). Patients were examined 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after enrollment to assess study outcomes and adverse events. Best-corrected visual acuity was measured by a masked examiner at the 24-month examination. A successful outcome was defined a priori as 24-month visual acuity better or no more than 1 line (7 letters) worse than at baseline.

RESULTS: Among 225 patients enrolled (median visual acuity 20/100), 113 study eyes were assigned to observation and 112 to surgery. Forty-six percent of the eyes in the observation arm and 55% in the surgery arm had a successful outcome (success ratio, 1.18; 95% confidence interval, 0.89-1.56). Median visual acuity at the 24-month examination was 20/250 among eyes in the observation arm and 20/160 for eyes in the surgery arm. The prespecified subgroup of eyes with visual acuity worse than 20/100 at baseline (n = 92) had more successes with surgery; 31 (76%) of 41 eyes in the surgery arm vs 20 (50%) of 40 eyes in the observation arm examined at 24 months (success ratio, 1.53; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-2.16). Five (4%) of 111 eyes in the surgery arm subsequently had a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment. Twenty-seven (24%) of 112 initially phakic eyes in the surgery arm (none in the observation arm) had cataract surgery during follow-up, all among patients older than 50 years. Recurrent choroidal neovascularization developed by the 24-month examination in 58% of surgically treated eyes.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, findings supported no benefit or a smaller benefit to surgery than the trial was designed to detect. Findings support consideration of surgery for eyes with subfoveal choroidal neovascularization and best-corrected visual acuity worse than 20/100 that meet other eligibility criteria for the SST Group H Trial. Other factors that may influence the treatment decision include the risks of retinal detachment, cataract among older patients, and recurrent choroidal neovascularization and the possibility that additional treatment will be required after submacular surgery.

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