Novel vitreous substitutes: the next frontier in vitreoretinal surgery.

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After removing the native vitreous during vitreoretinal surgery, an adequate substitute is required to ensure homeostasis of the eye. Current clinically used endotamponades (silicone oil, gases, semifluorinated alkanes) are effective in promoting retinal reattachment, but lead to complications such as emulsification, prolonged inflammation, blurred vision, raised intraocular pressure, cataract formation or the need for revision surgery. The aim of this review is to provide an update on novel vitreous substitutes with a focus on polymer-based systems.Polymeric hydrogels provide favourable properties such as high water content, optical transparency, suitable refractive indices and densities, adjustable rheological properties, injectability, biocompatibility and their ability to tamponade the retina via viscosity and swelling pressure, comparable to the native human vitreous body. Here, vitreous replacement strategies can be divided into chemically or physically crosslinked hydrogel systems that are applied as preformed or in-situ gelling matrices.Several hydrogel-based vitreous substitutes have already been positively evaluated in preclinical tests and have the potential to enter the clinical phase soon.

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Authors: André Schulz, Kai Januschowski, Peter Szurman