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Caroline Brandl, Christiane Brücklmayer, Felix Günther, Martina E. Zimmermann, Helmut Küchenhoff, Horst Helbig, Bernhard H. F. Weber, Iris M. Heid, Klaus J. Stark; Retinal Layer Thicknesses in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Results From the German AugUR Study. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(5):1581-1594. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.18-25332.
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To systematically analyze thicknesses of retinal layers in an older population and their link to early age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In the AugUR baseline survey from a population aged ≥70 years, we conducted multimodal retinal imaging, including spectral-domain optical coherence tomography. Autosegmentation of eight distinct retinal layers was followed by manual correction of segmentation errors. AMD status was graded on color fundus images according to the Three Continent AMD Consortium Severity Scale. We tested the association of early AMD on retinal layer thicknesses by using linear mixed models and replicated significant results in independent data also from the AugUR platform.
When comparing layer thicknesses between early AMD and no AMD (822 eyes, 449 participants), the retinal pigment epithelium/Bruch's membrane complex demonstrated a statistically significant thickening (e.g., P = 6.41 × 10−92 for severe early versus no AMD) and photoreceptor layers showed a significant thinning. Autosegmented retinal layer thicknesses revealed similar associations as manually corrected values but underestimated some effects. Independent replication analysis in 1026 eyes (546 participants) confirmed associations (e.g., P = 9.38 × 10−36 for retinal pigment epithelium/Bruch's membrane complex, severe early versus no AMD).
This first population-based study on spectral-domain optical coherence tomography-derived retinal layer thicknesses in a total of ∼1000 individuals provides insights into the reliability of autosegmentation and layer-specific reference values for an older population. Our findings show a difference in thicknesses between early AMD and no AMD for some retinal layers, suggesting these as potential imaging biomarkers. The thinning of photoreceptor layers substantiates a photoreceptor cell loss/damage already occurring in early AMD.
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