Objective: To evaluate optical coherence tomography (OCT), a novel noncontact and noninvasive imaging technique, for the diagnosis and quantitative characterization of epiretinal membranes.
Methods: Optical coherence tomography is similar to an ultrasound B-scan, except that light rather than sound is used, which enables higher resolution. Over a 2-year period, OCT was used to examine 186 eyes of 160 patients who had a diagnosis of an epiretinal membrane. Optical coherence tomograms were correlated with visual acuity, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, fluorescein angiography, and funds photography.
Results: Based on OCT, the epiretinal membrane was clearly separated from the retina with focal points of attachment in 49 eyes and globally adherent (no observed separation) in 125 eyes. Globally adherent membranes were associated with the following features: macular pseudohole (32 eyes), a difference in optical reflectivity between the membrane and retina (65 eyes), and/or a visible membrane tuft or edge (92 eyes). The membrane was undetectable on OCT in 12 eyes. The membrane thickness (mean +/- standard deviation) was 61 +/- 28 microns in the 169 eyes in which the thickness could be measured with OCT. Mean central macular thickness measured with OCT correlated with visual acuity (R2 = 0.73).
Conclusion: Optical coherence tomography was able to provide a structural assessment of the macula that was useful in the preoperative and postoperative evaluation of epiretinal membrane surgery. Quantitative measurements and the assessment of membrane adherence with OCT may be useful in characterizing the surgical prognosis of eyes with an epiretinal membrane.