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Biphasic change in retinal nerve fibre layer thickness from 30 to 60 weeks postmenstrual age in preterm infants


Background/Aims The optic nerve development during the critical postnatal weeks of preterm infants is unclear. We aimed to investigate the change of retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) in preterm infants.

Methods We used an investigational handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) system to serially image awake preterm infants between 30 and 60 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA) at the bedside. We assessed RNFL thickness in the papillomacular bundle and nasal macular ganglion cell layer+inner plexiform layer (GCL+IPL) thickness. We applied a segmented mixed model to analyse the change in the thickness of RNFL and GCL+IPL as a function of PMA.

Results From 631 OCT imaging sessions of 101 infants (201 eyes), RNFL thickness followed a biphasic model between 30 and 60 weeks, with an estimated transition at 37.8 weeks PMA (95% CI: 37.0 to 38.6). RNFL thickness increased at 1.8 μm/week (95% CI: 1.6 to 2.1) before 37.8 weeks and decreased at −0.3 μm/week (95% CI: −0.5 to −0.2) afterwards. GCL+IPL thickness followed a similar biphasic model, in which the thickness increased at 2.9 μm/week (95% CI: 2.5 to 3.2) before 39.5 weeks PMA (95% CI: 38.8 to 40.1) and then decreased at −0.8 μm/week (95% CI: −0.9 to −0.6).

Conclusion We demonstrate the feasibility of monitoring RNFL and GCL+IPL thickness from OCT during the postnatal weeks of preterm infants. Thicknesses follow a biphasic model with a transition age at 37.8 and 39.5 weeks PMA, respectively. These findings may shed light on optic nerve development in preterm infants and assist future study designs.

  • optic nerve
  • imaging
  • retina
  • child health (paediatrics)

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available on reasonable request to the corresponding author.

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