Local Anatomic Precursors to New-Onset Geographic Atrophy in Age-Related Macular Degeneration as Defined on OCT

Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 Ancillary Spectral-Domain Optical Coherence Tomography Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: In macula-wide analyses, spectral-domain (SD) optical coherence tomography (OCT) features including drusen volume, hyperreflective foci, and OCT-reflective drusen substructures independently predict geographic atrophy (GA) onset secondary to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We sought to identify SD OCT features in the location of new GA before its onset. Design: Retrospective study. Participants: Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 Ancillary SD OCT Study participants. Methods: We analyzed longitudinally captured SD OCT images and color photographs from 488 eyes of 488 participants with intermediate AMD at baseline. Sixty-two eyes with sufficient image quality demonstrated new-onset GA on color photographs during study years 2 through 7. The area of new-onset GA and one size-matched control region in the same eye were segmented separately, and corresponding spatial volumes on registered SD OCT images at the GA incident year and at 2, 3, and 4 years previously were defined. Differences in SD OCT features between paired precursor regions were evaluated through matched-pairs analyses. Main Outcome Measures: Localized SD OCT features 2 years before GA onset. Results: Compared with paired control regions, GA precursor regions at 2, 3, and 4 years before (n = 54, 33, and 25, respectively) showed greater drusen volume (P = 0.01, P = 0.003, and P = 0.003, respectively). At 2 and 3 years before GA onset, they were associated with the presence of hypertransmission (P < 0.001 and P = 0.03, respectively), hyperreflective foci (P < 0.001 and P = 0.045, respectively), OCT-reflective drusen substructures (P = 0.004 and P = 0.03, respectively), and loss or disruption of the photoreceptor zone, ellipsoid zone, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE, P < 0.001 and P = 0.005–0.045, respectively). At 4 years before GA onset, precursor regions were associated with photoreceptor zone thinning (P = 0.007) and interdigitation zone loss (P = 0.045). Conclusions: Evolution to GA is heralded by early local photoreceptor changes and drusen accumulation, detectable 4 years before GA onset. These precede other anatomic heralds such as RPE changes and drusen substructure emergence detectable 1 to 2 years before GA. This study thus identified earlier end points for GA as potential therapeutic targets in clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-408
Number of pages13
JournalOphthalmology Retina
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Geographic atrophy
  • Localized precursors
  • Spectral-domain OCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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