To investigate the role of melanin in influencing the clearance of traumatic hyphema and in the incidence of rebleeds following the hyphemas.
Hyphemas were induced in 30 eyes of New Zealand white albino rabbits using an Nd:YAG laser. A total of 3.75 mg of synthetic melanin suspended in 0.1 mL of balanced salt solution was introduced into the anterior chambers of 16 animals. A total of 0.1 mL of balanced salt solution was injected into 14 control eyes. Hyphema levels were measured by a masked observer (V.D.B.) daily for 15 days. Pairs of animals were sacrificed at 1, 3, 5, 10, and 15 days and the eyes studied histologically.
Hyphemas were consistently produced in all eyes with mean ± SD levels of 1.44 ± 0.22 mm and 1.57 ± 0.24 mm in the melanin-treated and control eyes, respectively. The clearance of hyphemas in the melanin-treated eyes was significantly prolonged throughout the study (P<.001). The rate of rebleed in the melanin-treated group was 18.8% and in the control group was 7.1% (P<.01). Histologically, both groups showed variable degrees of blood in the anterior chambers and trabecular meshwork. In addition, the melanin-treated eyes showed free melanin, melanin-laden macrophages, and an inflammatory response in the anterior chamber and trabecular meshwork that was greater than that in the control eyes. Melanin-treated eyes with rebleeds showed organized hemorrhage with neovascularization.
The presence of melanin results in a significantly prolonged course of hyphemas and may influence the rate of rebleeds. Occlusion of the trabecular meshwork with melanin-laden macrophages and inflammation may be the mechanisms responsible for these effects.
The release of melanin into the anterior chamber during ocular trauma may be partly responsible for the susceptibility of darker-pigmented individuals to more serious complications following a traumatic hyphema.