PURPOSE: To evaluate the variability of subjective corneal topography map classification between different experienced examiners and the impact of changing from an absolute to a normative scale on the classifications. METHODS: Preoperative axial curvature maps using Scheimpflug imaging obtained with the Pentacam HR (Oculus Optikgeräte, Wetzlar, Germany) and clinical parameters were sent to 11 corneal topography specialists for subjective classification according to the Ectasia Risk Scoring System. The study population included two groups: 11 eyes that developed ectasia after LASIK and 14 eyes that had successful and stable LASIK outcomes. Each case was first reviewed using the absolute scale masked to the patient group. After 3 months, the same cases were represented using a normative scale and reviewed again by the same examiners for new classifications masked to the patient group. RESULTS: Using the absolute scale, 17 of 25 (68%) cases had variations on the classifications from 0 to 4 for the same eye across examiners, and the overall agreement with the mode was 60%. Using the normative scale, the classifications from 11 of 25 (44%) cases varied from 0 to 4 for the same eye across examiners, and the overall agreement with the mode was 61%. Eight examiners (73%) reported statistically higher scores (P < .05) when using the normative scale. Considering all 550 topographic analyses (25 cases, 11 examiners, and two scales), the same classification from the two scales was reported for 121 case pairs (44%). CONCLUSION: There was significant inter-observer variability in the subjective classifications using the same scale, and significant intra-observer variability between scales. Changing from an absolute to a normative scale increased the scores on the classifications by the same examiner, but significant inter-observer variability in the subjective interpretation of the maps still persisted.
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