To evaluate the effect of a 9-week treatment deferral due to healthcare restrictions caused by Austria’s first governmental lockdown associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on visual acuity (VA) in eyes compromised by exudative neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) after 1 year.
Retrospective data collection of 98 eyes (98 patients) with a treatment discontinuation at a tertiary eye care center (Clinic Landstraße, Vienna Healthcare Group, Austria) between March 16 and May 4, 2020. Prior to the lockdown, patients received multiple intravitreal injections (IVI) of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor with a personalized treatment interval for 3 years on average and at least three IVI after the lockdown.
When the treatment interval doubled to 117.6 ± 31.4 days in spring 2020, patients lost 2.2 ± 4.6 ETDRS letters (p = 0.002) on average before reinitiating therapy. In total, 4.1 ± 8.1 letters (p < 0.0001) were lost despite continuous individual re-treatment over the course of the next year. In a univariate analysis, the extended interval time remained statistically significant (p < 0.0001), indicating a larger VA reduction within intervals with increasing interval time in days.
The short-term treatment interruption had a persistent negative impact on the VA course of eyes under therapy after 1 year. Continuous therapy independent of the underlying treatment regimen remains of utmost importance in exudative nAMD. Our data should create awareness to regulators regarding future decisions despite the global pandemic.

© 2021. The Author(s).