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Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2001;99:177-84; discussion 184-5.

The Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS): 10. Variability among academic glaucoma subspecialists in assessing optic disc notching.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, USA.



An analysis of data from the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS) has found eyes reported to have partial optic disc rim notching (not to the edge) at baseline to have less risk of subsequent visual field loss than eyes with no notching. Because this is counterintuitive and because classification of notching had not been defined in the AGIS protocol, we have assessed AGIS ophthalmologists interobserver and intraobserver agreement on notching.


Fourteen glaucoma subspecialists classified notching in 26 pairs of stereoscopic disc photographs of eyes with mild to severe glaucomatous optic neuropathy. They classified images as showing either no notching, notching not to the edge, or notching to the edge. Several hours later, 10 of them classified the same images a second time.


In an analysis of interobserver agreement, of 26 stereoscopic images, a plurality of ophthalmologists classified notching as absent in 9 (35%), as present but not to the edge in 7 (27%), and as present and not to the edge in 10 (38%). All 14 ophthalmologists (100%) agreed on the classification of 7 (27%) of the images, and 13 of the 14 ophthalmologists (93%) agreed on the classification of 4 additional images (15%). Of these 11 images with at least 93% agreement, notching was reported as absent in 3 (27%) and to the edge in 8 (73%). In the remaining 15 images, there was substantial disagreement about whether notching was present and, if so, whether it was to the edge. In an analysis of intraobserver agreement, none of the 10 ophthalmologists who completed the viewing a second time classified all eyes exactly the same as the first time, though 5 ophthalmologists made 4 or fewer reclassifications. Overall, 80% of the original classifications were reproduced on second reading. Of the initial classifications that were not reproduced, slightly more than half were first classified as having notching not to the edge.


Without definitions or examples of optic disc rim notching, the glaucoma subspecialists had relatively high intraobserver agreement but were likely to disagree with each other in characterizing the degree of disc rim notching. We recommend development of a standard photographic classification of disc rim notching. The classification should be tested for inter- and intra-observer agreement.

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