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Optical imaging of the chorioretinal vasculature in the living human eye.


Detailed visualization of microvascular changes in the human retina is clinically limited by the capabilities of angiography imaging, a 2D fundus photograph that requires an intravenous injection of fluorescent dye. Whereas current angiography methods enable visualization of some retinal capillary detail, they do not adequately reveal the choriocapillaris or other microvascular features beneath the retina. We have developed a noninvasive microvascular imaging technique called phase-variance optical coherence tomography (pvOCT), which identifies vasculature three dimensionally through analysis of data acquired with OCT systems. The pvOCT imaging method is not only capable of generating capillary perfusion maps for the retina, but it can also use the 3D capabilities to segment the data in depth to isolate vasculature in different layers of the retina and choroid. This paper demonstrates some of the capabilities of pvOCT imaging of the anterior layers of choroidal vasculature of a healthy normal eye as well as of eyes with geographic atrophy (GA) secondary to age-related macular degeneration. The pvOCT data presented permit digital segmentation to produce 2D depth-resolved images of the retinal vasculature, the choriocapillaris, and the vessels in Sattler's and Haller's layers. Comparisons are presented between en face projections of pvOCT data within the superficial choroid and clinical angiography images for regions of GA. Abnormalities and vascular dropout observed within the choriocapillaris for pvOCT are compared with regional GA progression. The capability of pvOCT imaging of the microvasculature of the choriocapillaris and the anterior choroidal vasculature has the potential to become a unique tool to evaluate therapies and understand the underlying mechanisms of age-related macular degeneration progression.

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