Purpose: Evaluation of the long-term effect of rheopheresis treatment of dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Materials and Methods: The treatment group consisted of 65 patients and 55 patients in the control group, with a minimum follow-up period of 60 months. The basic treatment consisted of 8 rheopheresis procedures, and the additional treatment (booster therapy) of 2 rheopheresis procedures 1.5–2 years after the basic treatment. We evaluated changes in best corrected visual acuity, anatomical effect, electrical activity of the retina, haematological, biochemical and immunological parameters.
Results: Rheopheresis treatment contributed significantly: 1) to stabilisation of best corrected visual acuity of the treated patients, which initially showed an insignificant increased during the 2-years follow-up period, and then slightly decreased. By contrast, visual acuity decreased in the control group, to an insignificant degree up to 4 years, then statistically significantly. 2) to an improvement of the morphological findings in 62.4% of treated patients compared to 7.5% in the control group, while disease progression to stage 3 (neovascular form of the disease or geographic atrophy) with a significant decrease of visual acuity occurred in only 7.1% of treated patients, versus 37.0% in the control group. 3) to regression, even to the attachment of drusenoid pigment epithelial detachment (DPED). To a reduction of the area of DPED in 80.4% of treated patients, in contrast with an increase in the area of DPED in 47.1% of patients in the control group, and the development of new DPED in only 2 eyes of treated patients compared with 16 eyes of patients in the control group. 4) to a preservation of the integrity of the ellipsoid layer in the fovea in 68.2% of the treated patients, while by contrast we found a damaged ellipsoid layer in the fovea in 66.6% of the control patients. 5) to a stabilisation of the activity of ganglion cells, the pineal system and the activity of the central area of the retina, with eccentricity between 1.8° and 30° in the treated patients, compared to alteration in the control group manifested mainly after 3.5 years of the follow-up period. 6) to a statistically significant improvement in rheological parameters, thereby increasing flow in microcirculation and positively influencing the metabolism in the retina. Also to a positive effect on the classical, alternative and lectin pathway of complement activation, a reduction in the level of proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9), and thus also the level of LDL-cholesterol, and 7) Additional treatment with 2 RHF procedures (so-called "booster therapy") seems to be a safe and suitable method of prolonging the stabilisation phase, or even improving visual acuity, anatomical and functional findings.
Conclusion: We demonstrated positive changes in anatomical, functional and humoral parameters upon rheopheresis treatment of AMD. Their correlation provides a real possibility to identify patients at risk and to manage an individualised regime of rheopheresis therapy. This method of treatment is effective and safe, with a low percentage of non-serious adverse effects.