In vivo imaging of photoreceptor disruption associated with age-related macular degeneration: A pilot study

Adam Boretsky, Faraz Khan, Garrett Burnett, Daniel X. Hammer, R. Daniel Ferguson, Frederik Van Kuijk, Massoud Motamedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background and Objective Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the developed world. As the disease progresses, the central part of the retina, called the macula, is compromised leading to a disruption of both structure and visual function. In this study, we investigate the disruption of macular photoreceptor cells in vivo as a function of disease stage in patients with the dry form of age-related macular degeneration AMD. Materials and Methods An investigational confocal Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (AO-SLO) was used to obtain high resolution images of the macular photoreceptor mosaic in patients previously diagnosed with AMD. Four patients were selected as representative cases, comprising each of the four clinical stages of AMD progression. Results AO-SLO imaging revealed slight disruption in the photoreceptor mosaic in early stage AMD due to focal drusen formation and identified several small drusen deposits that were not observed with standard clinical imaging techniques. An increase in photoreceptor disruption was visualized within the macula in direct correlation with the stage of AMD progression leading to a decrease in visual acuity. Large coalescent drusen and areas of geographic atrophy in advanced stage dry AMD exhibited a significant decrease in visible photoreceptor density. Significant decrease in photoreceptor counts (∼35-50%) were observed when comparing earlier stages of AMD progression (Categories I and II) to later stages of the disease (Categories III and IV). Conclusions This study demonstrates the capabilities of adaptive optics retinal imaging to monitor disruption of individual photoreceptor cells as a function of disease progression yielding valuable diagnostic findings in early stage AMD beyond what can be learned about the health of photoreceptors using conventional retinal imaging techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-610
Number of pages8
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • AMD
  • SLO
  • adaptive optics
  • drusen
  • fundus reflectance
  • retina
  • retinal pigment epithelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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