Visual Function in Asymptomatic Patients With Homozygous Sickle Cell Disease and Temporal Macular Atrophy

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Abstract

Importance

Temporal macular involvement in sickle cell disease can now easily be detected by optical coherence tomography (OCT). However, while recent studies have demonstrated its high prevalence, little is known about its potential consequences on visual function.

Objective

To assess the visual function of patients with sickle cell disease with no visual symptoms despite temporal macular atrophy.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This retrospective case series included data collection and explorations made in a single referral center for sickle cell disease in 2016. Three patients with sickle cell disease exhibiting preserved visual acuity but showing temporal macular retinal atrophy were included.

Exposures

Patients underwent the following explorations: best-corrected distance and near visual acuity evaluation; dilated fundus examination; OCT with 12 × 6-mm thickness map; horizontal, vertical, and en face sections; OCT angiography of the 6 × 6-mm perifoveal retina; 30° and 12° central visual fields; Lanthony 15-hue color vision test; automated static contrast sensitivity test; and global electroretinography.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The OCT thickness maps were checked for areas of retinal thinning, appearing as blue patches. When present, these areas were compared with the areas of superficial and deep capillary flow loss on OCT angiography and with the scotomas on visual fields. Contrast sensitivity and color vision loss were quantified.

Results

All 3 patients included had homozygous sickle cell disease. They presented with a 20/20 distance visual acuity, and Parinaud 1,5 near visual acuity in both eyes. They were all followed up for a severe cerebral vasculopathy related to sickle cell disease. The areas of atrophy involved the inner retinal layers and were associated with an absence of signal in the deep capillary plexuses in OCT angiography. These patches of retinal thinning were also matching with scotomas in the automated visual fields. Color vision ability and contrast sensitivity were impaired in all patients. Global electroretinography findings were normal.

Conclusions and Relevance

Temporal macular atrophy in sickle cell disease may have direct consequences on visual function, including in children, even when visual acuity is preserved. Optical coherence tomographic imaging may be warranted when evaluating patients with sickle cell disease, even if asymptomatic with 20/20 visual acuity.

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