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Retinal Nerve Fiber and Optic Disc Morphology in Patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus Using the Heidelberg Retina Tomography 3.



To use novel confocal scanning ophthalmoscopy technology to test hypothesis that HIV-seropositive patients without history of retinitis with a history of a low CD4 count are more likely to have damage to their retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) when compared to patients with high CD4 count. In addition, we compared optic disc morphologic changes with glaucoma.


Cross-sectional study.

Participants and controls

171 patients were divided into four groups. The control group consisted of 40 eyes of 20 HIV-seronegative patients. The second group consisted of 80 eyes of 41 HIV-positive patients whose CD4 cell count never dropped below 100 (1.0 x 10(9)/L). The third group consisted of 44 eyes of 26 HIV-positive patients with a history of low CD4 counts <100. Fourth group consisted of 79 eyes of 79 patients with confirmed glaucoma who served as positive controls.


Confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy was performed with the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph (HRT3) and data were analyzed with HRT3, software (Heyex version

Main outcome measures

Disc area, cup area, cup volume, rim volume, mean cup depth, maximum cup depth, cup-to-disc ration, mean RNFL thickness, and RNFL cross-sectional area.


Analysis of the global optic nerve and cup parameters showed no difference in disk area among the four groups. There was also no difference in cup, rim volume, mean cup depth, or maximum cup depth among the first three groups but they were all different from glaucoma group. The RNFL was thinner in glaucoma and both HIV-positive groups compared to HIV-seronegative subjects. The cross sectional RNFL area was thinner in both high and low CD4 HIV-positive groups compared to HIV-seronegative group in the nasal and temporal/inferior sectors, respectively. Glaucoma group showed thinning in all sectors.


HIV retinopathy results in retinal nerve fiber layer loss without structural optic nerve supportive tissue change. RNFL damage may occur early in HIV disease by mechanism different than in glaucoma.

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