To demonstrate rapid macular thinning as an early and objective sign of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) retinopathy.
Retrospective case cohort.
Cohort of 301 long-term HCQ therapy patients at Kaiser Permanente Northern California who had a minimum of four optical coherence tomography (OCT) studies which included Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) retinal thickness values over a minimum interval of four years.
Creation of sequential retinal thickness plots to show the rate of change in macular thickness within ETDRS regions.
1) Identification of rapid macular thinning, 2) Comparison of patients with rapid thinning to those with stable macular thickness, and 3) Comparison of rapid thinning patients with and without conventional OCT or 10-2 visual field signs of HCQ toxicity.
Retina thinning in 219 stable patients on long-term HCQ therapy averaged 0.62 ± 0.45 (mean ± standard deviation) microns per year, while 82 patients showed a period of relatively linear rapid thinning with a loss of 3.75 ± 1.34 microns per year. Of the patients with rapid thinning, 38 eventually developed conventional OCT or 10-2 visual field signs of HCQ retinal toxicity. The cumulative retinal thinning in these patients was 25.1 ± 6.2 microns compared to 15.7 ± 4.0 microns in those without conventional toxicity (p < 0.01).
Retinal thickness remains stable for many years in most patients on long-term HCQ therapy, but after a critical point the retina may begin to thin rapidly. Sequential plots of inner and outer ETDRS ring macular thickness provide objective evidence of this early structural change several years before conventional signs appear. This approach can alert patients and prescribing physicians to potential retinal damage and uses readily available OCT measurements that could be automated by manufacturers for use in comprehensive eyecare settings.

Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc.