Purpose: The authors determine the mean central corneal and epithelial thickness in a group of normal human subjects using a new high-frequency ultrasound technique, incorporating digital signal processing.
Method: Both eyes of ten volunteers (age range, 23-44 years) were scanned through a normal saline standoff. Digitized ultrasonic echo data were mathematically transformed to produce a plot, the I-scan, which optimally localizes acoustic interfaces to provide improved measurement precision. System precision was determined by analysis of variance of repeated measures. Central epithelial thickness was obtained by averaging multiple measurements. Central corneal thickness was determined by fitting measurements of apparent corneal thickness in consecutive parallel B-scans to a mathematically modeled cornea. A speed of sound of 1640 m/second was used.
Results: Epithelial pachymetric precision using A-scan and I-scan was 4.8 and 2.0 microns (standard deviation), respectively. The mean epithelial thicknesses for the right and left eyes were 50.7 +/- 3.7 microns and 50.3 +/- 3.4 microns, respectively. The mean corneal thicknesses in the right and left eyes were 514.6 +/- 38.4 microns and 516.2 +/- 37.8 microns, respectively. The root mean-square differences in epithelial and corneal thickness between the left and right eyes of each subject were 1.3 and 7.7 microns, respectively (neither was statistically significant).
Conclusion: This system provides a pachymetric precision superior to current optical and ultrasound methods. Epithelial and corneal pachymetry is obtained noninvasively by a method that is not limited to optically clear media.