Purpose: The authors identified patterns in preferred retinal locus (PRL) ability and location relative to macular scotomas in a low-vision patient population.
Methods: Scanning laser ophthalmoscope macular perimetry and PRL testing were performed on 825 patients with low vision. The PRL location was determined, and a PRL scoring system was devised and used to measure the pursuit ability, fixation stability, and saccadic ability of the PRL. The characteristics of dense scotomas within 2.5 degrees of the PRL were noted.
Results: Eighty-four percent (1130 of 1339 eyes) of the eyes had an established PRL. Preferred retinal loci varied across the full range of ability scores and varied in size for fixation stability from 1.0 degrees to 9.0 degrees in diameter. There was a central dense scotoma in 82.5% of the eyes, whereas 8.4% had a paracentral dense scotoma. In 14.8% of the eyes, the PRL had no dense scotomas on any of its borders; one, two, three, or four (a ring) borders had a dense scotoma in 39.7%, 19.0%, 9.0%, and 17.4% of eyes, respectively. When the PRL had only one scotomatous border, the resulting field defect was located superior in 39.0%, right in 33.7%, left in 19.9%, and inferior in 7.5% of eyes.
Conclusions: The majority of patients with low vision, as many as four of five patients, have dense scotomas encumbering the PRL for visual tasks. Approximately one of six patients with low vision have the PRL completely surrounded by dense scotomas. The visual system shows a strong tendency not to place a PRL anatomically above a scotoma (field defect below fixation) and a weaker tendency not to place the PRL anatomically to the right of a scotoma (field defect to the left of fixation). Macular perimetry and PRL evaluations can provide considerable information on the functional status of the macula, which may be useful to rehabilitation professionals.