Laser or vitrectomy for vitreous floaters

What was the aim of this review?
The aim of this Cochrane Review was to find out whether laser or vitrectomy is the most effective and safe treatment for vitreous floaters.

Key messages
It is unclear whether or not laser or vitrectomy is better for the treatment of vitreous floaters.

What was studied in this review?

The eyeball is filled with a clear jelly-like material called vitreous. Sometimes strands of protein clump together in the vitreous. This can give the appearance of small shapes floating in the eye. This is a natural part of ageing, it is harmless, and usually does not need treatment. Larger floaters may be distracting and may make activities, such as reading and driving, difficult.

If floaters are causing vision problems, they can either be treated with laser or vitrectomy. Laser treatment is directed at the floater, which is then vaporised. Vitrectomy is a surgical treatment that involves complete removal of the vitreous.

What are the main results of the review?
The Cochrane researchers did not find any studies that directly compared these two types of treatments.

How up to date is this review?
The Cochrane researchers searched for studies published up to 17 January 2017.

Authors' conclusions: 

There are currently no RCTs that compare Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis with pars plana vitrectomy for the treatment of symptomatic floaters. Properly designed RCTs are needed to evaluate the treatment outcomes from the interventions described. We recommend future studies randomise participants to either a Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis group or a vitrectomy group, with participants in each group assigned to either receive treatment or a sham intervention. Future studies should follow participants at six months and 12 months after the intervention. Also they should use best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) using an Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) chart read at 4 metres, vision-related quality of life (VRQOL), and adverse outcomes as the outcome measures of the trial.

Read the full abstract...

The vitreous is the clear jelly of the eye and contains fine strands of proteins. Throughout life the composition of this vitreous changes, which causes the protein strands in it to bundle together and scatter light before it reaches the retina. Individuals perceive the shadows cast by these protein bundles as 'floaters'. Some people are so bothered by floaters that treatment is required to control their symptoms. Two major interventions for floaters include Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis and vitrectomy. Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis involves using laser energy to fragment the vitreous opacities via a non-invasive approach. Vitrectomy involves the surgical replacement of the patient's vitreous (including the symptomatic vitreous floaters) with an inert and translucent balanced salt solution, through small openings in the pars plana.


To compare the effectiveness and safety of Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis to pars plana vitrectomy for symptomatic vitreous floaters.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Trials Register) (2016, Issue 12), MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to 17 January 2017), Embase Ovid (1947 to 17 January 2017), LILACS (Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature Database) (1982 to 17 January 2017), the ISRCTN registry (; searched 17 January 2017, (; searched 17 January 2017 and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (; searched 17 January 2017. We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We also searched conference proceedings to identify additional studies.

Selection criteria: 

We included only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that compared Nd:YAG laser vitreolysis to pars plana vitrectomy for treatment of symptomatic floaters.

Data collection and analysis: 

We planned to use methods recommended by Cochrane. The primary outcome we planned to measure was change in vision-related quality of life from baseline to 12 months, as determined by a vision-related quality of life questionnaire. The secondary outcomes we planned to measure were best corrected logMAR or Snellen visual acuity at 12 months for the treated eye(s) and costs. Adverse outcomes we planned to record were the occurrence of sight-threatening complications by 12 months (asymptomatic retinal tears, symptomatic retinal tears, retinal detachment, cataract formation, and endophthalmitis).

Main results: 

No studies met the inclusion criteria of this review.