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In vivo identification of alteration of inner neurosensory layers in branch retinal artery occlusion.

BACKGROUND/AIMS: To characterise the extension and progression of alteration of neurosensory layers following acute and chronic branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO) in vivo using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography.

METHODS: In this observational case series, eight eyes with acute BRAO and nine eyes with chronic BRAO were analysed using a Spectralis Heidelberg Retina Angiograph (HRA)+optical coherence tomography system including eye tracking. Patients with acute BRAO were examined within 36±5 h after primary event and at weekly/monthly intervals thereafter. Segmentation measurements of all individual neurosensory layers were performed on single A-scans at six locations in affected and corresponding non-affected areas. The thickness values of the retinal nerve fibre layer together with the ganglion cell layer (NFL/GCL), inner plexiform layer (IPL), inner nuclear layer together with outer plexiform layer (INL/OPL), outer nuclear layer (ONL), and photoreceptor layers together with the retinal pigment epithelium (PR/RPE) were measured and analysed.

RESULTS: Segmentation evaluation revealed a distinct increase in thickness of inner neurosensory layers including the NFL/GCL (35%), IPL (80%), INL/OPL (48%) and mildly the ONL by 21% in acute ischaemia compared with corresponding layers in non-ischaemic areas. Regression of intraretinal oedema was followed by persistent retinal atrophy with loss of differentiation between IPL and INL/OPL at month 2. In contrast, the ONL and subjacent PR/RPE retained their physiological thickness in patients with chronic BRAO.

CONCLUSION: In vivo assessment of retinal layer morphology allows a precise identification of the pathophysiology in retinal ischaemia.

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