Purpose: To determine whether there are regional differences in the age-related changes in peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness as measured by time-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Methods: Fast peripapillary RNFL scans obtained with the Stratus time-domain OCT with nominal diameter of 3.46-mm centered on the optic disc were carried out on 425 normal participants over a wide age range. One eye was randomly selected for scanning or analysis. Average RNFL-, clock hour-, and quadrant-specific rates of RNFL thickness change were calculated and compared.
Results: The 425 study participants ranged in age from 18 to 85 years with mean (±SD) of 46 (±15) years. The mean (±SD) average measured RNFL thickness was 104.7 (±10.8) micrometers (μm). The decline in the average RNFL thickness was 2.4 μm per decade of age. Changes in RNFL thickness per decade of age ranged from -5.4 (P<0.001) at clock hour 1 to -0.9 (P=0.28) at clock hour 6. Similarly, the rate of thickness change per decade of age in the superior quadrant was -4.3 (P<0.001) versus -1.5 (P=0.006) in the inferior quadrant. The slopes of thinning superiorly and inferiorly were highly significantly different (P=0.001).
Conclusions: The age-related decline in normal RNFL measurements does not occur at equal rates around the disc and occurs mainly superiorly.