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Br J Ophthalmol. 1997 May;81(5):350-4.

Variation of nerve fibre layer thickness measurements with age and ethnicity by scanning laser polarimetry.

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Glaucoma Unit, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.



Scanning laser polarimetry is a new technique allowing quantitative analysis of the retinal nerve fibre layer in vivo. This technique was employed to investigate the variation of the retinal nerve fibre layer thickness in a group of normal subjects of different ages and ethnic groups.


150 normal volunteers of different ages and ethnic groups were recruited for this study. Three consecutive 15-degree polarimetric maps were acquired for each subjects. Nerve fibre layer thickness measurements were obtained at 1.5 disc diameters from the optic nerve. Four 90-degree quadrants were identified.


The mean nerve fibre layer thickness varied from a minimum of 55.4 microns to a maximum of 105.3 microns, with a mean thickness value of 78.2 (SD 10.6) microns. Superior and inferior quadrants showed a comparatively thicker nerve fibre layer than nasal and temporal quadrants. Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness is inversely correlated with age (p < 0.001). White people showed thicker nerve fibre layers than Afro-Caribbeans (p = 0.002).


The results indicate a progressive reduction of the nerve fibre layer thickness with increasing age. This may be due to a progressive loss of ganglion axons with age as suggested in postmortem studies. A racial difference in nerve fibre layer thickness is present between whites and Afro-Caribbeans.

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