A new parameter of structural optic nerve damage from glaucoma is reported, the relative nerve fiber layer surface height (RNFLH). Relative nerve fiber, layer surface height is calculated from magnification-corrected surface contour measurements of the peripapillary retina made with computerized image analysis of stereoscopic videographic images. The technique measures the average height of the nerve fiber layer surface within a circumference 200 ,cm from the disc edge, as detected with narrow-band green light, with respect to a standardized reference plane. This parameter was examined in a group of 36 glaucoma patients with early to moderate visual field loss, and in 33 age-matched normal controls. The measured surface of the peripapillary nerve fiber layer was, on the average, 74 μm lower in glaucomatous eyes than in normal eyes, a statistically significant difference (P = 0.000). The ability of RNFLH to distinguish glaucomatous eyes from normal eyes was tested by its sensitivity (83%) and specificity (88%), which were greater than the sensitivities and specificities of computerized measurements of cup-disc ratio, disc rim area, and cup volume. This approach represents a step toward the identification of quantitative structural parameters to reflect the number of retinal ganglion cell axons that enter the optic nerve. Such measurements may facilitate the early diagnosis of glaucoma and provide important information on rates of ganglion cell death in aging and disease.
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