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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1999 Sep;40(10):2332-42.

The interpretation of optical coherence tomography images of the retina.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Rayne Institute, United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St. Thomas', St. Thomas' Hospital, London, United Kingdom.



To determine the relationship between optical coherence tomography (OCT) images of the retina and retinal substructure in vitro and in vivo.


In vitro, OCT images of human and bovine retina were acquired after sequential excimer laser ablation of the inner retinal layers. Measurements of bands in the OCT images were compared with measurements of retinal layers on histology of the ablated specimens. In vivo, OCT images were acquired of retinal lesions in which there was a displacement of pigmented retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells: retinitis pigmentosa and laser photocoagulation (eight eyes each).


The mean thickness of human inner OCT bands (131 microm; 95% confidence interval [CI], 122-140 microm) was 7.3 times that of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). This band persisted despite ablation greater than 140 microm. The inner aspect of the outer OCT band corresponded to the apical RPE, but the mean thickness of this band in human tissue (55 microm; 95% CI, 48-62 microm) was 2.6 times the thickness of the RPE-choriocapillaris complex. OCT measurement of total retinal thickness was accurate (coefficient of variance, 0.05) and precise (coefficient of correlation with light microscopy, 0.98). Hyperpigmented lesions gave rise to high signal, attenuating deeper signal; hypopigmented lesions had the opposite effect on deeper signal.


The inner band is not RNFL specific, partly consisting of a surface-related signal. The location, not thickness, of the outer band corresponds to RPE melanin. Given the additional effect of polarization settings, precise OCT measurement of specific retinal layers is currently precluded.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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