Purpose: To report the natural history of untreated neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) regarding subsequent macular atrophy. Design: Prospective cohort within a randomized, controlled trial of oral micronutrient supplements. Participants: Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) participants (55–80 years) who demonstrated nAMD during follow-up (1992–2005), prior to anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy. Methods: Color fundus photographs were collected at annual study visits and graded centrally for late age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Incident macular atrophy after nAMD was examined by Kaplan-Meier analysis and proportional hazards regression. Main Outcome Measures: Incident macular atrophy after nAMD. Results: Of the 4757 AREDS participants, 708 eyes (627 participants) demonstrated nAMD during follow-up and were eligible. The cumulative risks of incident macular atrophy after untreated nAMD were 9.6% (standard error, 1.2%), 31.4% (standard error, 2.2%), 43.1% (standard error, 2.6%), and 61.5% (standard error, 4.3%) at 2, 5, 7, and 10 years, respectively. This corresponded to a linear risk of 6.5% per year. The cumulative risk of central involvement was 30.4% (standard error, 3.2%), 43.4% (standard error, 3.8%), and 57.0% (standard error, 4.8%) at first appearance of atrophy, 2 years, and 5 years, respectively. Geographic atrophy (GA) in the fellow eye was associated with increased risk of macular atrophy (hazard ratio [HR], 1.70; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17–2.49; P = 0.006). However, higher 52-single nucleotide polymorphism AMD genetic risk score was not associated with increased risk of macular atrophy (HR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.90–1.17; P = 0.67). Similarly, no significant differences were observed according to SNPs at CFH, ARMS2, or C3. Conclusions: The rate of incident macular atrophy after untreated nAMD is relatively high, increasing linearly over time and affecting half of eyes by 8 years. Hence, factors other than anti-VEGF therapy are involved in atrophy development, including natural progression to GA. Comparison with studies of treated nAMD suggests it may not be necessary to invoke a large effect of anti-VEGF therapy on inciting macular atrophy, although a contribution remains possible. Central involvement is present in one third of eyes at the outset (similar to pure GA) and increases linearly to half at 3 years.
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