PURPOSE: We studied the progression of cataracts and visual acuity up to 36 months after vitrectomy and instillation of transforming growth factor beta-2 for treatment of full-thickness macular holes. METHODS: Sixty-four eyes with idiopathic and two with traumatic macular holes in this prospective consecutive series were divided into the following two groups: 56 phakic eyes were treated with 70, 330, or 1,330 ng of transforming growth factor beta-2 to study the progression of cataracts, and 31 phakic or pseudophakic eyes were treated with 1,330 ng of transforming growth factor beta-2 to study the long-term visual acuity after macular hole surgery. RESULTS: Eyes in the cataract progression study had a mean preoperative nuclear sclerosis grade of 0.4, which increased to 2.4 on final lens examination at a mean of 12.4 months postoperatively. The amount of nuclear sclerosis increased progressively with duration of follow-up, and 16 (76%) of 21 eyes followed up for 24 months or more required cataract extraction. The mean preoperative posterior subcapsular cataract grade was 0.0 and increased only slightly to 0.25 on final lens examination. All eyes had initial successful closure of the macular hole, but the macular hole reopened in two eyes (between six and 12 months and at 19 months) for an overall success rate of 29 (93.5%) of 31 eyes at a mean of 19.5 months. The visual acuity increased two or more Snellen lines in 29 (93.5%) of 31 eyes. The final visual acuity was 20/40 or better in 23 (74%) of 31 eyes and the visual improvement was stable in eyes followed up for three years. CONCLUSIONS: Nuclear sclerotic cataracts progress substantially after macular hole surgery with a long-acting intraocular gas tamponade. The visual acuity often decreases 12 or more months after vitrectomy because of cataract progression, but the visual results of vitrectomy and transforming growth factor beta-2 for macular holes are excellent when the cataracts are removed.
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