The purpose of this study was to investigate the ultrastructure of the membrana limitans interna (internal limiting membrane, ILM) and to evaluate alterations to the retinal cell layers after membrane peeling with vital dyes. Twenty-five patients (25 eyes) who underwent macular hole surgery were included, whereby 12 indocyanine green (ICG)- and 13 brilliant blue G (BBG)-stained ILM were analyzed using light, transmission electron and scanning electron microscopy. Retinal cell fragments on the ILM were identified in both groups using immunohistochemistry. Comparing ICG- and BBG-stained membranes, larger cellular fragments were observed at a higher frequency in the BBG group. Thereby, the findings indicate that ICG permits an enhanced separation of the ILM from the underlying retina with less mechanical destruction. A possible explanation might be seen in the known photosensitivity of ICG, which induces a stiffening and shrinkage of the ILM but also generates retinal toxic metabolites.

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