Avastin® (Bevacizumab) Intravitreal Injection
This handout describes how Avastin® may be used to treat wet age related macular
degeneration (AMD) or macular edema due to retinal vascular disease such as
diabetic retinopathy or retinal vein occlusion.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. It is caused by
the breakdown of the central portion of the retina (macula). The retina is the nerve
layer in your eye that works like the film in a camera to pick up the picture. It is
needed for fine central vision for driving a car, reading fine print, recognizing
faces, etc. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. In the wet form of AMD,
abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macula. Sometimes these vessels leak
blood or fluid which cause blurred or other changes in vision. This causes swelling
of the macula. Vision loss may be quick and severe without treatment.
Eye problems causing loss of vision due to either abnormal growth of blood
vessels in the back of the eye or swelling around the macula can happen in patients
of all ages. Sometimes there is no known reason for the abnormal blood vessels.
Possible causes may include:
Nearsightedness (high myopia)
A fungus which affects the eye (histoplasmosis)
Cracks in the retinal layers or reddish brown streaks (angioid streaks)
Blocking the blood supply to the retina
Changes to the retina from diabetes, including swelling of the macula
Macular edema is a swelling of the macula due to leaking retinal blood vessels. It
may be caused most often by diabetic retinopathy or the blockage of retinal blood
vessels – branch vein occlusion or central vein occlusion.
What is “Off-Label” status for medicines?
Avastin® was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the
treatment of colon cancer, not to prevent loss of vision. The manufacturer
produced a “label” that explains the reason for taking the drug, as well as the risks
and benefits. The label explains that Avastin® works by blocking a substance
known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Blocking or stopping VEGF
helps prevent further growth of the blood vessels that the cancer needs to continue
growing. Research has shown that VEGF is one of the causes for the growth of the
abnormal vessels in AMD and leaking of retinal blood vessels in macular edema.
Once approved by the FDA, doctors may use “off label” drugs for other purposes if
Well-informed about the product
Proof has shown it has had positive effects with use
Records of its use and effects are kept current
What are the limits of Avastin®?
The goal of treatment is to stop further loss of vision. Some patients treated with
Avastin® have shown less fluid and a more normal looking macula. Their vision
also improved. Although some patients have regained vision, the medicine may
not bring back vision that has already been lost. Also, it may not stop further loss
of vision caused by the disease.
How is Avastin® given?
The pupil is dilated and the eye is numbed with drops and cleaned with an
antiseptic solution. Avastin® is injected into the vitreous (jelly-like substance in
the back chamber of the eye). Avastin® is given as needed every four to six weeks.
Your eye doctor will tell you how often you will receive the injection and for how
It is your decision to receive treatment. Without treatment, these diseases can lead
to further vision loss and blindness. Sometimes this can happen very fast. At
present, there are other FDA-approved drugs for AMD. These treatments include:
Photodynamic therapy with a drug called Visudyne®
An injection into the eye of other anti-VEGF medications such as Lucentis®
For diabetic macular edema or macular edema due to vein occlusion, laser therapy
may be needed as an additional treatment. A different treatment may also include
the use of another anti-VEGF injection such as Lucentis® or Eylea®. Your doctor
will talk with you about the benefits and risks of these other treatment options.
What problems could occur?
When Avastin® was given to patients with colon cancer, some of the problems seen
were: stomach ulcers, wound healing problems, bleeding, stroke, heart attack, high
blood pressure, protein in the urine, and heart problems. Patients who have these
complications not only had colon cancer, but were given 400 times the amount you
will be given. Higher amounts are used to spread throughout the body.
Eye doctors believe that the risks for patients with eye problems are low. Patients
getting Avastin® into the eye receive a much smaller dose. Clinical trials of
Lucentis® and Eylea®, as well as studies comparing Lucentis® and Avastin®, found
that these drugs are safe and effective. Patients treated with Avastin® for macular
degeneration did not have the serious problems that were seen in patients with
What are the known risks of eye injections?
Your eye condition may not get better or may become worse. Any or all of these
problems may cause a loss of vision and/or have the chance of causing blindness.
More procedures may be needed to treat these problems. During clinic visits or
phone calls, you will be checked for side effects and the results will be discussed
Any medicine can cause allergic reactions in certain people. These can include:
rash, hives, itching, shortness of breath, and, rarely, death. These symptoms are
more likely to occur in people who have allergies to other drugs, foods, or things in
the environment, such as dust or grass. If you have allergies or asthma, tell your
Possible risks leading to loss of vision with eye injections
Clouding of the lens of the eye (cataract)
Increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma)
Reduced pressure in the eye (hypotomy)
Damage to the retina or cornea
Less severe risks from eye injections
Bloodshot eye (subconjunctival hemorrhage)
Floating spots with clear centers (vitreous floaters)
Swelling of the eye
What precautions should I follow?
For the day after the injection, do not rub your eyes.
Do not swim for one day after the injection.
Tell your eye doctor and any other doctor or dentists that you are on a
medicine that may need to be stopped before you can have surgery.
Please discuss with your eye doctor if you are using eye drops.
When to call your eye doctor right away
Severe pain not relieved by medicine
Blurry or decreased vision
Sensitivity to light
Redness of the eye
Discharge from the eye
When to call your local doctor or go to the Emergency Room right away
Abdominal pain with constipation and vomiting
Weakness on one side of the body
University Station Eye Clinic, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
When the clinic is closed, your call will be forwarded to the hospital paging
operator. Ask for the “Eye Resident on Call”. Give the operator your name and
phone number with area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942 and ask to be transferred to the
Please call if you have any questions or concerns.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 1/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6350