Hyperreflective Foci and Specks Are Associated with Delayed Rod-Mediated Dark Adaptation in Nonneovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Academic Article


  • Purpose: Hyperreflective foci (HRF) are OCT biomarkers for the progression of nonneovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) attributed to anteriorly migrated retinal pigment epithelial cells. We examined associations between rod- and cone-mediated vision and HRF plus smaller hyperreflective specks (HRS); we identified a histologic candidate for HRS. Design: Cross-sectional study and histologic survey. Participants: Patients with healthy maculae (n = 34), early AMD (n = 26), and intermediate AMD (n = 41). Methods: AMD severity was determined by color fundus photography. In OCT scans, HRF and HRS were counted manually. Vision tests probed cones (best-corrected visual acuity [VA], contrast sensitivity), mixed cones and rods (low-luminance VA, low-luminance deficit, mesopic light sensitivity), or rods (scotopic light sensitivity, rod-mediated dark adaptation [RMDA]). An online AMD histopathologic resource was reviewed. Main Outcome Measures: Vision in eyes assessed for HRF and HRS; histologic candidate for HRS. Results: In 101 eyes of 101 patients, HRF and HRS were identified in 25 and 95 eyes, respectively, with good reliability. Hyperreflective foci were present but sparse in healthy eyes, infrequent in early AMD eyes, and frequent but highly variable among intermediate AMD eyes (mean±standard deviation [SD] number per eye, 0.1 ± 0.2, 0.2 ± 0.5, and 1.9 ± 3.4 for healthy, early AMD, and intermediate AMD eyes, respectively). Hyperreflective specks outnumbered HRF in all groups (mean±SD, 4.5 ± 3.2, 6.3 ± 5.8, and 19.4 ± 22.4, respectively). Delayed RMDA was associated strongly with more HRF and HRS (P < 0.0001). Hyperreflective foci also were associated with worse low-luminance VA (P = 0.0117). Hyperreflective specks were associated with worse contrast sensitivity (P = 0.0278), low-luminance VA (P = 0.0010), low-luminance deficit (P = 0.0031), and mesopic (P = 0.0018) and scotopic (P < 0.0001) sensitivity. By histologic analysis, cone lipofuscin was found in outer retinal layers of 25% of healthy aged eyes. Conclusions: Hyperreflective foci and HRS are markers of cellular activity associated with visual dysfunction, especially delayed RMDA, an AMD risk indicator assessing efficiency of retinoid resupply. Hyperreflective specks may represent lipofuscin translocating inwardly within cones. HRF and HRS may serve as structural end points in clinical trials targeting AMD stages earlier than atrophy expansion. These results should be confirmed in a larger sample.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Echols BS; Clark ME; Swain TA; Chen L; Kar D; Zhang Y; Sloan KR; McGwin G; Singireddy R; Mays C
  • Start Page

  • 1059
  • End Page

  • 1068
  • Volume

  • 4
  • Issue

  • 11