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August 1995

Selective Loss of Blue Cones and Rods in Human Retinal Detachment

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison (Dr Nork), and the Department of Ophthalmology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown (Drs Millecchia, Strickland, Linberg, and Chao).

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(8):1066-1073. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100080118039

Objective:  To determine if there are histopathologic changes in the outer retina that could explain the blue-yellow color confusion previously described following rhegmatogenous retinal detachment in humans.

Methods:  Ten eyes with traumatic retinal detachments were studied. Eight of the eyes were removed from 2½ to 11 days following trauma. In the remaining two eyes, the retinas were successfully reattached. Enzyme histochemical studies for carbonic anhydrase and immunochemical studies for S antigen were performed to distinguish blue cones from red/green cones.

Results:  With the 2½- to 4-day-old detachments, nearly all of the carbonic anhydrase-negative (blue-sensitive) cones and many of the rods were seen to have signs of irreversible necrosis, including extreme swelling of the inner segments and mitochondria, loss of the outer segments, and pyknotic and displaced nuclei. In the 6- and 11-day-old detachments, almost all of the carbonic anhydrase-negative cones and many rods were missing. Blue cones were essentially absent from the reattached retinas, and there were only about half the normal number of rods.

Conclusions:  Rhegmatogenous retinal detachment results in rapid and almost total loss of the blue cones. Significant rod loss also occurs in this type of detachment but the red/green cones are comparatively resistant to damage. These findings could explain the observed blue-yellow color confusion in such patients. We discuss other clinical implications.

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