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Birefringent Properties of the Peripapillary Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer in Healthy and Glaucoma Subjects Analyzed by Polarization-Sensitive OCT

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2022 Nov 1;63(12):8. doi: 10.1167/iovs.63.12.8.


PURPOSE: To study the circumpapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) birefringence (BIR) of early glaucoma and age-matched healthy eyes using polarization-sensitive optical coherence tomography (PS-OCT).

METHODS: In this prospective cross-sectional study, we compared virtual circular PS-OCT B-scans with a diameter of 3.5 mm centered on the optic disc (OD) acquired with a PS-OCT prototype (860 nm center wavelength). Early glaucoma was defined by the glaucomatous appearance of the OD and a pathologic visual field test with a mean deviation (MD) better than -6 dB. The main outcome parameters were BIR, RNFL-thickness (RNFL-T), and phase retardation (RET). The BIR value at each virtual A-scan position was the quotient of the RET measured at the inner segment/outer segment junction divided by the RNFL-T.

RESULTS: The dataset comprised 49 early glaucoma patients (mean ± standard deviation [SD]: 64 ± 10 years) and 49 healthy control subjects (61 ± 9 years). Glaucomatous eyes showed a statistically significant lower BIR globally (mean ± SD: 0.108 ± 0.008°/µm vs. 0.112 ± 0.009°/µm, P = 0.033), superiorly (0.116 ± 0.017°/µm vs. 0.126 ± 0.013°/µm, P = 0.0001), and inferiorly (0.112 ± 0.011°/µm vs. 0.121 ± 0.011°/µm, P < 0.0001), and increased BIR in the temporal quadrant (0.088 ± 0.015°/µm vs. 0.078 ± 0.014°/µm, P = 0.0001) compared to healthy eyes.

CONCLUSIONS: We report a reduced BIR of the RNFL in early perimetric glaucoma, which can be interpreted as a sign of loss or change of intracellular microtubules and may contribute to a better understanding of early disease development. Prospective longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether BIR is altered in pre-perimetric human glaucoma before RNFL-T decline.

PMID:36331260 | DOI:10.1167/iovs.63.12.8

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