Objective: The authors used optical coherence tomography (OCT), a new technique for cross-sectional imaging of the retina, to morphologically study eyes with nonexudative and exudative age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In patients with untreated exudative AMD, OCT was compared with fluorescein angiography in the identification and classification of choroidal neovascularization (CNV).
Methods: Optical coherence tomography imaging is analogous to ultrasound, except that the use of light rather than sound enables higher longitudinal resolution with a noncontact and noninvasive measurement. Optical coherence tomography was performed on 391 patients with the clinical diagnosis of AMD and was compared with conventional clinical examination to establish the cross-sectional morphology of different lesions and to develop a classification scheme for CNV. Optical coherence tomograms and fluorescein angiograms then were reviewed and correlated independently in 90 eyes of 86 patients who had exudative AMD without previous laser treatment.
Results: Pigmentary changes, soft drusen, and detachments of the neurosensory retina and retinal pigment epithelium all had distinct presentations on OCT. Subretinal and intraretinal fluid caused changes in retinal thickness or elevation that could be quantified directly from the images. Choroidal neovascularization was evident in the tomograms as a thickening and fragmentation of a reflective layer, which corresponded to the retinal pigment epithelium and choriocapillaris. Changes in the reflection from this layer were observed during the progression of neovascularization, and after laser photocoagulation treatment. Classic CNV consistently presented with well-defined boundaries on OCT, whereas occult CNV had a variable cross-sectional appearance.
Conclusions: Optical coherence tomography was useful in quantitatively evaluating subretinal and intraretinal fluid, assessing possible subfoveal involvement of neovascularization, and in monitoring CNV before and after laser photocoagulation. Optical coherence tomography was unable to detect CNV beneath serous pigment epithelial detachments. Optical coherence tomography may have potential in accurately defining the boundaries in a subset of angiographically occult CNV.