Symptoms related to posterior vitreous detachment and the risk of developing retinal tears: a systematic review

Olta Gishti, Ronald van den Nieuwenhof, Jennifer Verhoekx, Koen van Overdam

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Flashes and floaters are the hallmark symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) which itself is related to an increased risk of the development of retinal tears, retinal detachment and vitreous haemorrhage. The aim of this study is to assess the associations between different symptoms related to PVD and the risk of developing retinal tears. A systematic review of articles written in English, using MEDLINE, Embase (via and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (1996-2017) was conducted. Search terms included five elements: PVD, retinal tears, retinal detachment, floaters and flashes. Independent extraction of articles was conducted by two authors using predefined data fields, including study quality indicators. Thirteen studies fulfilled the selection criteria. Analysis of pooled data revealed that presence of isolated flashes was associated with the development of retinal tears in 5.3% of symptomatic eyes [mean 2.9 eyes; 95% CI (2.1, 5.7)].Conversely, floaters alone had a stronger association with retinal tears (16.5% of eyes), as compared to flashes. The association to retinal tears was even greater for those patients reporting both flashes and floaters [mean 17.8 eyes (20.0%); 95% CI (17.4, 18.1)]. Retinal and/or vitreous haemorrhage was also associated with the presence and later development of retinal tears [mean 12.5 eyes (30.0%); 95% CI (11.7, 13.9)]. Patients with more than 10 floaters or a cloud in their vision had a high risk of developing retinal tears (OR19.8, p-value 0.032). In the setting of a PVD, the onset of flashes and floaters, and the presence of retinal and/or vitreous haemorrhage are risk factors for the development of retinal tears. The association is greater when both symptoms are present, and even greater when the patient reports more than 10 floaters, a curtain or a cloud and/or there is a positive finding of a vitreous or retinal haemorrhage. This study supports the necessity of an immediate examination of patients presenting with symptoms related to a PVD, and a follow-up examination might be prudent in a subgroup of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-352
Number of pages6
JournalActa Ophthalmologica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Retina/pathology
  • Retinal Perforations/diagnosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitreous Body/pathology
  • Vitreous Detachment/complications


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