Retinal nerve fiber layer progression in glaucoma: a comparison between retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and retardance

Guihua Xu, Robert N Weinreb, Christopher K S Leung
Ophthalmology 2013, 120 (12): 2493-2500

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the performance of spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) and scanning laser polarimetry to detect progressive retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) changes and to determine whether reduction of the RNFL retardance occurred before thinning of the RNFL in glaucoma.

DESIGN: Prospective, longitudinal study.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred eighty-four eyes of 116 glaucoma patients and 43 normal eyes of 23 healthy individuals.

METHODS: Patients were followed up every 4 months for at least 36 months with RNFL retardance (GDx Enhanced Corneal Compensation; Carl Zeiss Meditec) and RNFL thickness (Cirrus HD-OCT; Carl Zeiss Meditec) measured in the same visit. Progressive RNFL retardance and thickness changes were evaluated with event-based analysis (Guided Progression Analysis; Carl Zeiss Meditec) with reference to the RNFL retardance change map and the RNFL thickness change map, respectively. The area and frequency distribution of RNFL changes were examined by overlaying the RNFL retardance change maps and the RNFL thickness change maps in the latest follow-up. The agreement of RNFL retardance and RNFL thickness progression was evaluated with κ statistics.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Number of eyes with progressive RNFL changes over time.

RESULTS: A total of 2472 OCT thickness maps and 2472 RNFL retardance maps were collected and reviewed with a mean follow-up of 55.1 months. Twenty-seven eyes (14.6%; 26 glaucoma patients) showed progressive RNFL thinning, whereas 8 eyes (4.3%; 8 glaucoma patients) showed progressive reduction of RNFL retardance. Seven eyes (3.8%; 7 glaucoma patients) had progression that was detected by both instruments, all with progressive RNFL thinning detected before progressive reduction of RNFL retardance became evident, and the mean lag time was 13.4 months (range, 4.0-37.6 months). The agreement between RNFL thickness and RNFL retardance progression was fair (κ, 0.357). Progressive loss of RNFL thickness was observed most frequently at the inferotemporal 223° to 260°, whereas the inferotemporal 227° to 263° and superior 56° to 117° were observed most commonly for progressive loss of RNFL retardance. In the normal group, no eyes showed reduction in RNFL thickness or retardance.

CONCLUSIONS: At a comparable level of specificity, progressive RNFL thinning was detected more often than progressive reduction of RNFL retardance. For eyes with progressive loss of RNFL thickness and RNFL retardance, the former preceded the latter.

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