Optic disc morphology--rethinking shape

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2009 Jul;28(4):227-48. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 Jun 10.


Morphometrics, a branch of morphology, represents the study of size and shape components of biological form and their variation in the population. Assessment of optic disc morphology is essential in the diagnosis and management of many ophthalmic disorders. Much work has been performed to characterize size-related parameters of the optic disc; however, limited information is available on shape variation in the general population. In contrast to optic disc or cup sizes, which are conceptually meaningful variables with a defined unit of measurement, there are few metric constructs by which to quantify, visualize and interpret variation in optic disc or cup shape. This has significance in ophthalmic diseases with a genetic basis as recent evidence has suggested that optic disc shape may be heritable. Conventional optic disc shape measures of 'ovality' and 'form-factor' reduce a complex structure to a single number and eliminate information of potential diagnostic relevance from further analyses. The recent advent of 'geometric morphometrics', a branch of statistics that incorporates tools from geometry, biometrics and computer graphics in the quantitative analysis of biological forms, has enabled spatial relationships in shape data to be retained during analysis. The analytical methods employed in geometric morphometrics can be separated into two distinct groups: landmark-based (e.g. Procrustes analysis, thin-plate splines) and boundary outline techniques (e.g. Fourier analysis). In this review, we summarize current approaches to the study of optic disc morphology, discuss the underlying theory of geometric morphometrics within the context of analytical techniques and then explore the contemporary relevance of the subject matter to several biological fields. Finally we illustrate the potential application of geometric morphometrics to the specific problem of optic disc shape and glaucoma assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biometry
  • Computer Graphics
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Glaucoma / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma / genetics
  • Glaucoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Optic Disk / anatomy & histology*
  • Optic Disk / physiology
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Optic Nerve / physiology
  • Optometry