Effect of cataract and its removal on signal strength and peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer optical coherence tomography measurements

Jean C. Mwanza, Anjali M. Bhorade, Navneet Sekhon, John J. McSoley, Sonia H. Yoo, William J. Feuer, Donald L. Budenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the effect of cataract on optical coherence tomography (OCT), signal strength (SS), and peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness measurements. Methods: Peripapillary RNFL thickness measurements were obtained by Stratus OCT scans using the Fast RNFL thickness (3.4) acquisition protocol before and after cataract extraction in 45 patients with cataract, including 23 glaucoma patients. Cataracts were graded according to the Lens Opacities Classification System III. Results: The postoperative RNFL thickness and SS were 9.3% (P=0.001) and 24.1% (P<0.001) higher than before surgery, respectively. There was greater postoperative change in RNFL thickness measurements in patients with lower preoperative RNFL measurements (r=-0.63, P<0.001) and SS (r=-0.59, P<0.001). Eyes with preoperative SS more than 6 had no significant difference between precataract and postcataract surgery RNFL thickness (P=0.14). There was no significant difference in RNFL thickness change between eyes with cataract only (10.9 ± 20.8 μm) and those with cataract and glaucoma (7.0 ± 14.7 μm; P=0.81). Conclusion: Cataracts may decrease peripapillary RNFL thickness measurements and the SS on OCT scans. Thinning of the peripapillary RNFL suggestive of glaucomatous progression may be the result of artifact from advancing cataract rather than actual structural changes in the peripapillary RNFL. Peripapillary RNFL thickness measurements should be interpreted with caution in glaucomatous eyes with significant cataract, particularly if the SS is attenuated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of glaucoma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011



  • cataract
  • glaucoma
  • optical coherence tomography
  • peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness
  • signal strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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