[Skip to Navigation]
November 1997

Macular Hole Opercula: Ultrastructural Features and Clinicopathological Correlation

Author Affiliations

From the Vitreoretinal Unit, Moorfields Eye Hospital (Drs Ezra, Charteris, Aylward, and Gregor), and Department of Pathology, Institute of Ophthalmology (Drs Ezra, Munro, and Luthert), London, England.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997;115(11):1381-1387. doi:10.1001/archopht.1997.01100160551004

Objective:  To investigate the ultrastructural features of idiopathic full-thickness macular hole (FTMH) opercula excised during vitrectomy and to correlate them with the outcome of surgery.

Methods:  Opercula were collected from eyes undergoing vitrectomy for stage 3 FTMH using noncrushing, cupped foreign body forceps. Following immediate fixation, specimens were processed for transmission electron microscopy. The ultrastructural features were correlated with the clinical data recorded for each patient before and after surgery.

Results:  Eighteen specimens were studied. Native vitreous collagen was identified on the surface of all 18, while fragments of internal limiting membrane were present in 11 (61%). Eleven (61%) were found to contain only glia, comprising fibrous astrocytes and Müller cells in variable proportions. The remaining 7 (39%) were found to contain, in addition to glia, neurites and synaptic complexes, of which some were typical of cone photoreceptors. The initial surgical closure rate was significantly better in eyes in which only glia were present (9/11 [82%]), compared with those with neurites (1/7 [14%]) (P=.01). Once closure had been achieved with reoperation, the median final visual acuity was 20/60 in both groups (P=.26), although the likelihood of achieving an acuity of 20/40 or better was greater in the former (50%) than the latter group (17%).

Conclusions:  Two distinct types of opercula occur in association with stage 3 FTMH—those containing only glia (pseudo-opercula), which are probably associated with a foveal dehiscence and little or no loss of foveal tissue, and those containing both glia and a significant number of avulsed foveal cones (true opercula), which arise from a full-thickness foveal tear. Although the loss of foveal tissue in true opercula would seem to explain the worse initial anatomical and more modest visual results in some eyes, significant visual improvement may still be achieved after successful closure. The presence of neurites in true opercula suggests that, in at least some cases, direct traction on the foveal retina leads to macular hole formation.

Add or change institution