Purpose To determine whether cataract surgery accelerates disease progression in retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Design Retrospective cohort study. Methods Seventy eyes of 40 patients with RP were categorized as having had phacoemulsification with intraocular lens implantation vs no cataract surgery at a single tertiary-level institution. Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SDOCT) was used to measure the ellipsoid zone (EZ) width, which has been demonstrated to be a reliable marker of RP severity, at baseline and throughout follow-up (median 768 days). RP progression was calculated as the loss of EZ width over time for all patients. Additional postoperative data were collected for the cataract surgery group, including preoperative and postoperative best-corrected visual acuity, incidence of macular edema, posterior capsular opacification, epiretinal membrane, and intraocular lens subluxation. Results Multivariable analysis including age, baseline EZ width, mode of inheritance, and cataract surgery status showed that there was no significant difference in RP progression between the cataract surgery and control groups (P =.23). Mode of inheritance was associated with RP progression, with autosomal recessive RP progressing at 148 μm/year and autosomal dominant RP progressing at 91 μm/year (P =.003). Visual acuity improved in almost all eyes that underwent surgery (17/19, 89%) and remained stable in remaining eyes (2/19, 11%). There was a high incidence of postsurgical posterior capsular opacification (18/19, 95%). There were no serious complications, such as lens subluxation or endophthalmitis. Conclusions Our findings suggest that cataract surgery is a safe and effective means of improving visual acuity in RP patients and that it does not seem to be associated with faster disease progression as measured using SDOCT.
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