To better understand the effects of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) on post-receptor anatomy, the thicknesses of the receptor, inner nuclear, retinal ganglion cell (RGC), and retinal nerve fiber layers (RNFL) were measured with frequency-domain optical coherence tomography (fdOCT).
FdOCT scans were obtained from the horizontal midline in 30 patients with RP and 23 control subjects of comparable age. Raw images were exported and the thicknesses of photoreceptor/RPE, inner nuclear, RGC plus inner plexiform, and nerve fiber layers were measured with a manual segmentation procedure aided by a computer program. The RNFL thickness was also measured in 20 controls and 25 patients using circular peripapillary fdOCT scans.
Results from controls were consistent with known anatomy. In patients with RP, the pattern of photoreceptor loss with eccentricity was consistent with the field constriction characteristic of RP. INL and RGC layer measures were comparable to normal subjects, although some patients showed slightly thicker RGC layers. However, RNFL layer thickness was significantly greater than normal; a majority of patients showed a thicker RFNL on both horizontal midline scans and peripapillary scans.
To make optimal use of OCT RNFL thickness as a measure of the integrity of RGCs in patients with RP, a better understanding of the causes of the thickening seen in the majority of the patients is needed. As the RGC layer thickness can be measured with fdOCT, RGC layer thickness may turn out to be a more direct and valid indicator of the presence of RGCs in patients with RP.