Linking structure and function in glaucoma

R. S. Harwerth, J. L. Wheat, M. J. Fredette, D. R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

161 Scopus citations

Abstract

The glaucomas are a group of relatively common optic neuropathies, in which the pathological loss of retinal ganglion cells causes a progressive loss of sight and associated alterations in the retinal nerve fiber layer and optic nerve head. The diagnosis and management of glaucoma are often dependent on methods of clinical testing that either, 1) identify and quantify patterns of functional visual abnormality, or 2) quantify structural abnormality in the retinal nerve fiber layer, both of which are caused by loss of retinal ganglion cells. Although it is evident that the abnormalities in structure and function should be correlated, propositions to link losses in structure and function in glaucoma have been formulated only recently. The present report describes an attempt to build a model of these linking propositions using data from investigations of the relationships between losses of visual sensitivity and thinning of retinal nerve fiber layer over progressive stages of glaucoma severity. A foundation for the model was laid through the pointwise relationships between visual sensitivities (behavioral perimetry in monkeys with experimental glaucoma) and histological analyses of retinal ganglion cell densities in corresponding retinal locations. The subsequent blocks of the model were constructed from clinical studies of aging in normal human subjects and of clinical glaucoma in patients to provide a direct comparison of the results from standard clinical perimetry and optical coherence tomography. The final formulation is a nonlinear structure-function model that was evaluated by the accuracy and precision of translating visual sensitivities in a region of the visual field to produce a predicted thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer in the peripapillary sector that corresponded to the region of reduced visual sensitivity. The model was tested on two independent patient populations, with results that confirmed the predictive relationship between the retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and visual sensitivities from clinical perimetry. Thus, the proposed model for linking structure and function in glaucoma has provided information that is important in understanding the results of standard clinical testing and the neuronal losses caused by glaucoma, which may have clinical application for inter-test comparisons of the stage of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-271
Number of pages23
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
Volume29
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Keywords

  • Glaucoma
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Perimetry
  • Retinal ganglion cells
  • Retinal nerve fiber layer
  • Structure-function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology

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    Harwerth, R. S., Wheat, J. L., Fredette, M. J., & Anderson, D. R. (2010). Linking structure and function in glaucoma. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 29(4), 249-271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.preteyeres.2010.02.001