BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced diabetic eye disease are commonly in poor general health. In addition to the ocular status, life expectancy is an important factor in the decision whether and how to perform vitreous surgery. The present study investigates mortality and risk factors for survival in diabetic patients following vitrectomy. METHODS: The follow up of 332 consecutive patients who underwent vitrectomy for complications of diabetic retinopathy between 1990 and 1994 was studied retrospectively. Survival and risk factors for survival were analysed using the Kaplan-Meier life table method and for multivariate analysis the Cox proportional hazard model. RESULTS: The 5 year survival rate was 68%. Absence of heart disease was the most important predicting factor for survival. Fifty per cent of the patients with heart disease had died within 3.5 years. Patients without heart disease had a 5 year survival rate of 90%. Other significant, independent risk factors were age and presence of nephropathy. CONCLUSION: In diabetic patients undergoing vitrectomy the presence of heart disease indicates a poor prognosis for survival. This should be taken into consideration for indications and strategies in cases of vitrectomy.
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