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Intravitreal vascular endothelial growth factors hypertension, proteinuria, and renal injury: a concise review.


Purpose of review

Nearly 20 years ago, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)inhibitors (VEGFi) were adapted from systemic use from antiangiogenesis roles to intravitreal uses. Initially bevacizumab a murine immunoglobulin was injected 'off label' as a treatment for diabetic macular edema and age-related macular degeneration. Throughout the following decade aflibercept and finally ranibizumab were adapted and obtained Food and Drug Administration approval for intravitreal use. Initially systemic absorption was thought to be quite low after intravitreal injections and was quoted as being 200-fold lower than levels postulated to induce significant VEGF inhibition. Pharmacodynamic studies obtained in 2014 and again in 2017 revealed significant systemic absorption and detectable VEGF inhibition, this has since been confirmed in multiple subsequent studies.

Recent findings

A few case reports of renal dysfunction and glomerular disease related to VEGFi were initially identified. Mixed findings on effects on blood pressure were noted in studies. More recently, 32 cases of de-novo glomerular disease and/or proteinuria exacerbation were identified. New studies have corroborated increased blood pressure, proteinuria exacerbation in patients with pre-existing nephrotic syndrome, and systemic VEGF depletion. Further, the most common lesion of systemic VEGFi nephrotoxicity, thrombotic microangiopathy, has recently been reported by our group.


We will review the pharmacokinetic, translational, and epidemiological data that year upon year establish the finite-yet real risk of intravitreal VEGFi.

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