Purpose: To evaluate longitudinally the optic disk morphology of nonglaucomatous optic nerve damage secondary to retinal nerve fiber damage, using experimental central retinal artery occlusion in rhesus monkey eyes as a model.
Methods: This prospective study included 24 eyes of 16 monkeys. In eight eyes of eight animals, central retinal artery occlusion was produced by clamping the central retinal artery in the retrobulbar space. Occlusion was verified by fluorescein fundus angiography. The same eyes at baseline as well as the eight contralateral healthy eyes and eight monkey eyes with experimental high-pressure glaucoma served as control groups. Serially taken optic disk photographs were morphometrically evaluated.
Results: The area and shape of the neuroretinal rim and alpha zone and beta zone of parapapillary chorioretinal atrophy of eyes after central retinal artery occlusion did not vary significantly (P > .30) from the same eyes before central retinal artery occlusion nor from the normal contralateral eyes. In the glaucomatous eyes, the neuroretinal rim was significantly (P < .001) smaller and parapapillary atrophy significantly (P = .01) larger than in the eyes after central retinal artery occlusion.
Conclusions: Experimental central retinal artery occlusion, in contrast to glaucoma, does not markedly change the size and shape of parapapillary atrophy and neuroretinal rim; this confirms previous clinical studies. Thus, assessment of parapapillary atrophy and neuroretinal rim may be helpful to differentiate between glaucomatous optic neuropathy and nonglaucomatous optic neuropathy secondary to retinal nerve fiber damage. Parapapillary atrophy is independent of decreased retinal blood perfusion and development of nonglaucomatous optic nerve atrophy following experimental central retinal artery occlusion.