Quantitative analysis of outer retinal tubulation in age-related macular degeneration from spectral-domain optical coherence tomography and histology

Academic Article


  • PURPOSE. To assess outer retinal tubulation (ORT) morphology from spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) volumes and donor eye histology, analyze ORT reflectivity, and estimate the number of cones surviving in ORT. METHODS. In SD-OCT volumes from nine patients with advanced AMD, ORT was analyzed en face and in B-scans. The hyperreflective ORT border in cross-section was delineated and surface area calculated. Reflectivity was compared between ORT types (Closed, Open, Forming, and Branching). A flatmount retina from a donor with neovascular AMD was labeled to visualize the external limiting membrane that delimits ORT and allow measurements of cross-sectional cone area, center-to-center cone spacing, and cone density. The number of cones surviving in ORT was estimated. RESULTS. By en face SD-OCT, ORT varies in complexity and shape. Outer retinal tubulation networks almost always contain Closed cross-sections. Spectral-domain OCT volumes containing almost exclusively Closed ORTs showed no significant direction-dependent differences in hyperreflective ORT border intensity. The surface areas of partial ORT assessed by SD-OCT volumes ranged from 0.16 to 1.76 mm2. From the flatmount retina, the average cross-sectional area of cone inner segments was 49.1 ± 7.9 µm2. The average cone spacing was 7.5 ± 0.6 µm. Outer retinal tubulation cone density was 20,351 cones/mm2. The estimated number of cones in ORT in a macula ranged from 26,399 to 186,833 cones, which is 6% to 44% of the cones present in a healthy macula. CONCLUSIONS. These first estimates for cone density and number of cones surviving in ORT suggest that ORT formation considerably distorts the photoreceptor mosaic. Results provide additional insight into the reflectivity characteristics and number of ORT cones observable in living patients by SD-OCT, as cones persist and disease progresses.
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    Author List

  • Litts KM; Ach T; Hammack KM; Sloan KR; Zhang Y; Freund KB; Curcio CA
  • Start Page

  • 2647
  • End Page

  • 2656
  • Volume

  • 57
  • Issue

  • 6