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Foveal structure and visual function in nanophthalmos and posterior microphthalmos


Background/aims The reason for visual impairment in patients with nanophthalmos and posterior microphthalmos is not completely understood. Therefore, this study aims to investigate foveal structure, and the impact of demographic, clinical and imaging parameters on best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) in these conditions.

Methods Sixty-two eyes of 33 patients with nanophthalmos (n=40) or posterior microphthalmos (n=22), and 114 eyes of healthy controls with high-resolution retinal imaging including spectral-domain or swept-source optical coherence tomography images were included in this cross-sectional case–control study. Foveal retinal layer thickness was determined by two independent readers. A mixed-effect model was used to perform structure–function correlations and predict the BCVA based on subject-specific variables.

Results Most patients (28/33) had altered foveal structure associated with loss of foveal avascular zone and impaired BCVA. However, widening of outer nuclear layer, lengthening of photoreceptor outer segments, normal distribution of macular pigment and presence of Henle fibres were consistently found. Apart from the presence of choroidal effusion, which had significant impact on BCVA, the features age, refractive error, axial length and retinal layer thickness at the foveal centre explained 61.7% of the variability of BCVA.

Conclusion This study demonstrates that choroidal effusion, age, refractive error, axial length and retinal layer thickness are responsible for the majority of interindividual variability of BCVA as well as the morphological foveal heterogeneity in patients with nanophthalmos or posterior microphthalmos. This might give further insights into the physiology of foveal development and the process of emmetropisation, and support clinicians in the assessment of these disease entities.

  • retina
  • imaging
  • macula

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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