Background: An experimental sustained release intraocular device has been designed to deliver ganciclovir over a long period of time. As part of an efficacy trial, the ganciclovir intraocular device was used to treat cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis in patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Methods: All patients had active CMV retinitis that had progressed despite intravenous ganciclovir therapy. The ganciclovir intraocular device was inserted into the vitreous cavity by making an inferotemporal full-thickness circumferential sclerotomy and anchored to the incision. Intravenous therapy was then discontinued and patients were followed up at 2-week intervals until death. Seven eyes from five patients were obtained 2 to 10 hours postmortem and submitted for histopathologic examination. Light and electron microscopic studies were performed and correlated to the clinical outcome. Follow-up period after device placement ranged from 16 to 82 days (median, 70 days). Results: All seven eyes showed clinical stabilization of the CMV retinitis. Light microscopy showed varying degrees of retinal atrophy with areas of gliosis. In addition, we observed syncytial megalic cells containing Cowdrey type A inclusions affecting all layers of the retina. Concurrent choroidal infections with Pneumocystis carinii (1) and Mycobacterium avium (2) also were seen. Electron microscopy showed virus particles located mostly at the junction of uninvolved and 'healed' retinitis. No evidence of retinal toxic effects or inflammation at the site of ganciclovir intraocular device implant was noted. Conclusion: The ganciclovir intraocular device appeared to be effective in controlling the progression of CMV retinitis. The clinical and pathologic results are similar to those observed in the eyes of patients with intravenously administered ganciclovir. The lack of toxic effects and sustained levels of intravitreal ganciclovir may provide an improved therapeutic method of local treatment of CMV retinitis.
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