Introduction: Corneal thickness changes reflect alterations in hydration and metabolism. Ultrasound pachymetry determinations may be adversely influenced by fluctuations in tissue hydration, whereas optical systems are apparently unaffected by these fluxes. A recently marketed, optical-based, topographic mapping system (Orbscan; Orbtek, Inc.) uses anterior and posterior corneal surface data to calculate corneal thickness.
Objective: This new instrumentation presents as a potentially useful pachymetry tool for evaluation of corneas under hydration flux or challenge (e.g., postphotorefractive keratectomy [PRK] healing studies) and was therefore evaluated for accuracy and variability.
Measurements: Three calibrated standards were measured in repeated fashion. Additionally, 1 test subject was measured 30 times in 1 day (5 measurements each at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM and at 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00 PM). Corresponding measurements were made at 8:00 and 11:00 AM and at 4:00 PM on 3 separate days to assess repeatability. Grouped data from 18 volunteer subjects were compared to the data of the test subject as well.
Results: Pachymetry accuracy on a calibrated standard was determined to be +/-2 microm (standard deviation, n = 12). Repeated measures on the subject demonstrated a mean standard deviation of 9.08 microm for 750 thickness data points across the central 7 mm of the cornea; peripheral measurement points exhibited progressively greater variability than at the apex (analysis of variance; P<0.0001). A plot of thickness by corneal location and time of day exhibited a diurnal pattern, with the peripheral cornea exhibiting progressively greater thickness changes than the central cornea (two-way analysis of variance; P<0.00001). The data significantly correlated across days when all times of day were considered (r = 0.999). However, thickness values obtained at 8:00 AM were significantly different across days (t test; P<0.0002). The subject's data correlated very well (r = 0.9996) with the grouped volunteer data.
Conclusions: These data show this system to be useful in corneal research and in clinical settings. The data confirm early morning pachymetry to be highly variable. Additionally, the data not only indicate a diurnal variation of corneal hydration over time, but also imply the presence of a diurnal-based hydration gradient across the peripheral cornea, both of which can have significance for PRK, since excimer tissue ablation effectiveness is influenced by tissue hydration.