A pilot study of morphometric analysis of choroidal vasculature in vivo, using en face optical coherence tomography

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48631. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048631. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


Purpose: To study the ability of volumetric spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) to perform quantitative measurement of the choroidal vasculature in vivo.

Methods: Choroidal vascular density and vessel size were quantified using en face choroidal scans from various depths below the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in 58 eyes of 58 patients with either epiretinal membranes (ERM), early age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or reticular pseudo-drusen (RPD). For each patient, we used the macular volume scan (6×6 mm cube) for vessel quantification, while high-definition (HD) cross-section raster scans were used to qualitatively assess vascularity of the choroidal sub-layers, and measure choroidal thickness.

Results: Of the 58 patients, more were female (66% versus 34% male), of whom 14 (24%) had ERM, 11 (19%) early AMD, and 33 (57%) RPD. Compared to intact choriocapillaris in all ERM (100%), none of the RPD and only 5/11 (45%) early AMD eyes had visible choriocapillaris on either cross section or C-scans (p-value<0.001). When comparing select regions from the most superficial C-scans, early AMD group had lowest vascular density and RPD had highest (p-value 0.04). Qualitative evaluation of C-scans from all three groups revealed a more granular appearance of the choriocapillaris in ERM versus increased stroma and larger vessels in the RPD eyes.

Conclusions: SD-OCT can be used to qualitatively and quantitatively assess choroidal vascularity in vivo. Our findings correlate to previously reported histopathologic studies. Lack of choriocapillaris on HD cross-sections or C-scans in all RPD and about half of early AMD eyes suggests earlier choroidal involvement in AMD and specifically, RPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Choroid / blood supply*
  • Choroid / pathology
  • Choroidal Neovascularization / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Retinal Drusen / pathology
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*