Sympathetic ophthalmia associated with pars plana vitrectomy without antecedent penetrating trauma

Aryeh L. Pollack, H. Richard McDonald*, Everett Ai, W. Richard Green, Lawrence S. Halpern, Lee M. Jampol, J. Michael Leahy, Robert N. Johnson, William H. Spencer, Walter H. Stern, David V. Weinberg, Jane C. Werner, George A. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate, describe, and categorize the clinical presentation, clinical course, histopathology, and response to therapy in patients without a history of penetrating ocular trauma who developed sympathetic ophthalmia following pars plana vitrectomy. Methods: The records of patients without a history of trauma who underwent pars plana vitrectomy and developed sympathetic ophthalmia were retrospectively reviewed. Cases were analyzed with respect to clinical presentation, fluorescein angiographic findings, anatomic and visual outcomes, histopathology, and response to therapy. Results: Eight eyes were identified. The median age at presentation was 55 years, with a range of 14 to 62 years. The time from vitrectomy to diagnosis of sympathetic ophthalmia ranged from 2 months to greater than 2 years, with a median of 7 months. Six of eight patients (75%) presented with anterior chamber reaction. All eight patients presented with a vitreous inflammatory response. The optic nerve was inflamed clinically or angiographically in four of eight cases (50%). Small yellow-white sub-retinal pigment epithelial deposits were present in four of eight cases (50%). Two eyes had lesions characterized as multifocal choroiditis. One eye had larger yellow placoid-like lesions. One eye presented with vitritis but no retinal lesions. Subretinal choroidal neovascularization was noted in the inciting eye of one patient. Vision improved in the sympathizing eye with immunosuppressive therapy in five of eight cases (62.5%). Conclusions: Sympathetic ophthalmia can be seen following pars plana vitrectomy in patients without penetrating injuries or a history of trauma. Indeed, it may be seen after successful vitrectomy for retinal detachment. Diverse clinical presentations are possible, and persistent or atypical uveitis following vitrectomy should alert the surgeon to the development of sympathetic ophthalmia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Immunosupressive therapy
  • Multifocal choroiditis
  • Pars plana vitrectomy
  • Sympathetic ophthalmia
  • Uveitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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