To find differences in epithelial thickness (ET) maps of eyes with keratoconus (KC) and healthy eyes.
Institutional cross-sectional study.
In this study 40 keratoconic eyes and 76 healthy eyes were scanned using a custom-built ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence tomography system. Automated segmentation ET maps with 17 subsectors were calculated (central, temporal inferior, temporal superior, nasal inferior, and nasal superior area). The thinnest point of the epithelium (minET), the thickest point of the epithelium (maxET), and the thinnest point diagonally opposing the thickest point (ETmax/op) were additional parameters. Ratios were calculated as follows: minET/diagonally opposing point (R1), maxET/diagonally opposing point (R2), inferior temporal area/superior nasal area (RTI/NS), and inferior/superior hemisphere (RI/S). Furthermore, collected parameters were analyzed regarding their diagnostic accuracy (area under the curve; AUC).
Statistically significant differences were as follows: central ET, 46.25 ± 2.56/50.91 ± 1.66; minET, 38.50 ± 2.10/46.79 ± 1.27; ETmax/op, 47.14 ± 2.45/49.60 ± 1.57; temporal inferior area: 43.93 ± 2.95/51.04 ± 1.51 (all mean ± standard deviation, μm); R1, 0.76 ± 0.09/0.93 ± 0.04; R2, 1.08 ± 0.04/1.21 ± 0.16; RTI/NS, 0.85 ± 0.08/1.02 ± 0.04; RI/S: 0.92 ± 0.07/0.99 ± 0.02. AUC values were R1: 0.979 (confidence interval [CI]: 0.957–1.000), RTI/NS: 0.977 (CI: 0.951–1.000), and minET: 0.928 (CI: 0.880–0.977).
Epithelial thickness maps could clearly visualize different ET patterns. Parameters with the highest potential of diagnostic discrimination between eyes with KC and healthy eyes were, in descending order, R1, RTI/NS, and minET. Consequently, epithelial thickness irregularity and asymmetry seem to be the most promising diagnostic factor in terms of discriminating between keratoconic eyes and healthy eyes.