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Quantifying the Separation Between the Retinal Pigment Epithelium and Bruch's Membrane using Optical Coherence Tomography in Patients with Inherited Macular Degeneration.



To describe and quantify Bruch's membrane (BM) and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) separation using spectral-domain (SD) optical coherence tomography (OCT) in patients affected by inherited macular degenerations associated with BM thickening.


Patients with molecularly confirmed Sorsby fundus dystrophy (SFD), dominant drusen (DD), and late-onset retinal degeneration (L-ORD) were included in this retrospective study. Each disease was classed as early stage if subjects were asymptomatic, intermediate stage if they had nyctalopia alone, and late stage if they described loss of central vision. The main outcome was measurement of BM-RPE separation on SD-OCT. The BM-RPE separation measurements were compared against those in normal age-matched controls.


Seventeen patients with SFD, 22 with DD, and eight with L-ORD were included. BM-RPE separation on SD-OCT demonstrated a high test-retest and interobserver reproducibility (intraclass correlation coefficients >0.9). BM-RPE separation was not identified in normal subjects. In SFD, there was greater BM-RPE separation in late-stage disease compared with intermediate-stage patients both at subfoveal (P < 0.05) and juxtafoveal (P < 0.01) locations. In DD, there was increased BM-RPE separation in late-stage disease compared with early stage at subfoveal (P < 0.001) and juxtafoveal (P < 0.05) topographies. There was no significant difference in BM-RPE separation between disease stages in L-ORD.


BM-RPE separation is a novel, quantifiable phenotype in the three monogenic macular dystrophies studied, and may be an optical correlate of the histopathological thickening in BM that is known to occur. BM-RPE separation, as measured by OCT, varies with stage of disease in SFD and DD, but not in L-ORD.

Translational relevance

SFD, DD, and L-ORD are associated with BM thickening. In this group of patients, OCT assessment of macular structure identifies a separation of the usually single, hyperreflective line thought to represent BM and the overlying RPE. This separation is a novel and quantifiable feature of disease staging in SFD and DD.

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