Article Text

Immunopathology of intraocular silicone oil: retina and epiretinal membranes
  1. Louisa J Wickham1,
  2. Riaz H Asaria2,
  3. Robert Alexander3,
  4. Phil Luthert3,
  5. David G Charteris1
  1. 1Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  3. 3Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: L Wickham Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, London EC1V 2PD, UK; louisa.wickham{at}


Aims: To determine the inflammatory response in retina and epiretinal membranes after intraocular silicone oil tamponade.

Methods: 14 proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) epiretinal membranes, 33 retro-oil epiretinal membranes, 19 retinectomies, 14 retro-oil retinectomies and 37 idiopathic epiretinal membranes (controls) underwent immunohistochemical analysis using the avidin–biotin complex technique and a panel of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. The number of positive cells counted in five 0.5 mm diameter fields of immunohistochemical sections was graded on a score of 1–4.

Results: Macrophage cell counts were significantly greater in membranes with a history of exposure to silicone oil (p<0.001). An inflammatory response could be observed within 1 month of silicone oil exchange, and the intensity seemed to be unrelated to the duration of exposure. Macrophages were confined to epiretinal membranes on the surface of retinectomy specimens in 10 of 14 cases and intraretinal macrophages were observed only in specimens with gliotic retina. T and B lymphocytes were rarely seen in the specimens examined. Marked glial cell up regulation was observed in 11 of 16 retinectomy specimens and in 8 of 11 retro-oil retinectomies. Glial cell content was variable in the membranes, but there was a trend of increased presence after exposure to silicone oil.

Conclusion: This study has shown that the use of silicone oil is accompanied by an inflammatory reaction, primarily mediated by bloodborne macrophages. This response can be observed within 1 month of silicone oil injection and continues after silicone oil removal. Retinal surgeons should be aware of the potential secondary effects of intraocular silicone oil when they are considering its use (and removal) in vitreoretinal surgery.

  • ERM, epiretinal membrane
  • HPF, high power fields
  • PVR, proliferative vitreoretinopathy
  • RPE, retinal pigment epithelium

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  • Published Online First 27 September 2006

  • Funding: None.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

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