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Variation of nerve fibre layer thickness measurements with age and ethnicity by scanning laser polarimetry
  1. D Poinoosawmya,
  2. L Fontanaa,b,
  3. J X Wua,
  4. F W Fitzkeb,
  5. R A Hitchingsa
  1. aGlaucoma Unit, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, bInstitute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London
  1. Mr Roger A Hitchings, Glaucoma Unit, Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, London EC1V 2PD.


AIMS Scanning laser polarimetry is a new technique allowing quantitative analysis of the retinal nerve fibre layer in vivo. This technique was employed to investigate the variation of the retinal nerve fibre layer thickness in a group of normal subjects of different ages and ethnic groups.

METHODS 150 normal volunteers of different ages and ethnic groups were recruited for this study. Three consecutive 15 degree polarimetric maps were acquired for each subjects. Nerve fibre layer thickness measurements were obtained at 1.5 disc diameters from the optic nerve. Four 90 degree quadrants were identified.

RESULTS The mean nerve fibre layer thickness varied from a minimum of 55.4 μm to a maximum of 105.3 μm, with a mean thickness value of 78.2 (SD 10.6) μm. Superior and inferior quadrants showed a comparatively thicker nerve fibre layer than nasal and temporal quadrants. Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness is inversely correlated with age (p < 0.001). White people showed thicker nerve fibre layers than Afro-Caribbeans (p = 0.002).

CONCLUSION The results indicate a progressive reduction of the nerve fibre layer thickness with increasing age. This may be due to a progressive loss of ganglion axons with age as suggested in postmortem studies. A racial difference in nerve fibre layer thickness is present between whites and Afro-Caribbeans.

  • scanning laser polarimetry
  • retinal nerve fibre layer
  • aging
  • ethnic group

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