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Purpose Changes in retinal thickness are common in various ocular diseases. Transverse magnification due to differing ocular biometrics, in particular axial length, affects measurement of retinal thickness in different regions. This study evaluated the effect of axial length and refractive error on measured macular thickness in two community-based cohorts of healthy young adults.

Methods A total of 2160 eyes of 1247 community-based participants (18–30 years; 23.4% myopes, mean axial length = 23.6mm) were included in this analysis. Macular thickness measurements were obtained using a spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (which assumes an axial length of 24.385mm). Using a custom program, retinal thickness data were extracted at the 9 Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) regions with and without correction for transverse magnificent effects, with the corrected measurements adjusting according to the participant’s axial length. Linear mixed models were used to analyse the effect of correction and its interaction with axial length or refractive group on retinal thickness.

Results The raw measures (uncorrected for axial length) underestimated the true retinal thickness at the central macula, while overestimating at most non-central macular regions. There was an axial length by correction interaction effect in all but the nasal regions (all p<0.05). For each 1mm increase in axial length, the central macular thickness is overestimated by 2.7–2.9μm while thicknesses at other regions were underestimated by 0.2–4.1μm. Based on the raw thickness measurements, myopes have thinner retinas than non-myopes at most non-central macular. However, this difference was no longer significant when the corrected data was used.

Conclusion In a community-based sample, the raw measurements underestimate the retinal thickness at the central macula and overestimate the retinal thickness at non-central regions of the ETDRS grid. The effect of axial length and refractive error on retinal thickness is reduced after correcting for transverse magnification effects resulting from axial length differences.



The eye data collection of the Gen2 20-year follow-up of the Raine Study was funded by the NHMRC (grant no. 1021105), Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA), Alcon Research Institute, Lions Eye Institute, the BrightFocus Foundation, and the Australian Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness. The core management of the Raine Study is funded by The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Telethon Kids Institute, Women and Infants Research Foundation, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, The University of Notre Dame Australia and the Raine Medical Research Foundation. SY and PGS are each supported by a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship. DAM is supported by a NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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