OCT in Alzheimer’s disease: thinning of the RNFL and superior hemiretina

João Paulo Cunha, Rita Proença, Arnaldo Dias-Santos, Rita Almeida, Helena Águas, Marta Alves, Ana Luísa Papoila, Carlota Louro, António Castanheira-Dinis

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) and internal macular layer thinning have been demonstrated in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with optical coherence tomography (OCT) studies. The purpose of this study is to compare the pRNFL thickness and overall retinal thickness (RT) in AD patients with non-AD patients, using spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and determine the sectors most characteristically affected in AD. Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed to determine the pRNFL and overall macular RT thicknesses in AD and non-AD patients, attending a tertiary hospital center. For pRNFL, the global and six peripapillary quadrants were calculated, and for overall RT values, the nine Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) areas were used. A multiple regression analysis was applied to assess the effects of disease, age, gender, spherical equivalent, visual acuity, intraocular pressure, axial length and blood pressure on pRNFL and overall macular RT. Results: A total of 202 subjects, including 50 eyes of 50 patients with mild AD (mean age 73.10; SD = 5.36 years) and 152 eyes of 152 patients without AD (mean age 71.03; SD = 4.62 years). After Bonferroni correction, the pRNFL was significantly thinner for the AD group globally and in the temporal superior quadrant (10.76 μm and 20.09 μm mean decrease, respectively). The RT thickness was also decreased in superior sectors S3 and S6 (mean thinning of 9.92 μm and 11.65 μm, respectively). Spearman’s correlation coefficient showed a direct association between pRNFL in the temporal superior quadrant and RT in superior S6 and S3 sectors (rS = 0.41; p < 0.001 and rS = 0.28; p < 0.001, respectively). Conclusions: Patients with AD showed a significant thickness reduction in global and temporal superior quadrants in pRNFL and in superior pericentral and peripheral sectors of RT. These findings may reflect a peripapillary and retinal changes characteristic of AD, suggesting the importance of SD-OCT as a potential adjuvant in early diagnosis of AD. Further studies are needed to understand which retinal layers and macular sectors are more useful as potential ocular biomarker over time in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1827-1835
Number of pages9
JournalGraefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Macula
  • Retina
  • RNFL
  • Spectral domain optical coherence tomography


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