Different phenotypes of the appearance of the outer plexiform layer on optical coherence tomography

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2013 Oct;251(10):2311-7. doi: 10.1007/s00417-013-2308-5. Epub 2013 May 10.


Purpose: To present a selected case series of different phenotypes of the normal outer plexiform layer (OPL) visualized by optical coherence tomography (OCT).

Methods: Five cases were selected to represent the spectrum of appearances of the OPL in this case series. Categorical descriptions of each manifestation were then developed. Additional SD-OCT scans were obtained from a normal volunteer to further support the hypothesis.

Results: The inner one-third of the OPL typically appears hyperreflective on OCT, while the outer two-thirds (Henle fiber layer) may have a more varied appearance. Six different phenotypes of Henle fiber layer reflectivity were noted in this series, and classified as: bright, columnar, dentate, delimited, indistinct, and dark. The brightness of the Henle fiber layer appears to depend on the geometric angle between the OCT light beam and the axonal fibers in this portion of the OPL. This angle appears to be a function of the natural orientation of the Henle fiber layer tissue (θN), the existence of subretinal pathology that alters the angle of the neurosensory retina (θ(P)), and the tilt angle of the tissue on the B-scan (θ(T)) due to decentered OCT acquisition.

Conclusions: Since accurate interpretation of the OPL/ONL boundary is of vital importance to study the thickness of ONL, location of cystoid lesions, hyperreflective crescents over drusen, et al., our case series may aid better understanding of the OPL appearance in SD-OCT. In the absence of clear delineation, it may be most correct to refer to indistinct OPL and ONL together as the photoreceptor nuclear axonal complex (PNAC).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / pathology*
  • Retinal Bipolar Cells / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology*
  • Retinal Horizontal Cells / pathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*
  • Young Adult