The association between the foveal avascular zone and retinal thickness

Toco Y.P. Chui, Dean A. VanNasdale, Ann E. Elsner, Stephen A. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To investigate the association between the size and shape of the foveal avascular zone and retinal thickness in healthy subjects.

METHODS: In vivo imaging of the foveal microvasculature was performed on 32 subjects by using an adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope (AOSLO). Motion contrast maps of the AOSLO images were used to generate a montage revealing the foveal capillary network. Foveal avascular zone (FAZ) diameters along the horizontal (FAZH) and vertical (FAZV) meridians were measured on the montages. An asymmetry index (AI) of the FAZ was then computed as the ratio of the FAZH to FAZV. Retinal thickness was investigated by using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SDOCT). Inner retinal layer (INLFAZ) thickness and outer nuclear layer (ONLFAZ) thickness were measured at the edges of the FAZ on the horizontal and vertical SDOCT scans on the same eye.

RESULTS: The foveal capillary network was readily visualized in all subjects. As expected there was individual variation in the size and shape of the FAZ. Along the horizontal and vertical meridians, the mean±SD (μm) of the FAZ diameter was 607±217 and 574±155, respectively. The INLFAZ thickness was 68±9 and 66±9, and the ONLFAZ thickness was 103±13 and 105±11, respectively. The mean±SD of the AI was 1.03±0.27. The difference between FAZH and FAZV decreases with increasing FAZ area (P=0.004). Mean ONLFAZ was negatively correlated with FAZ effective diameter (P<0.0001). No significant correlation was found between mean INLFAZ and FAZ effective diameter (P=0.16).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite large individual variations in size and shape of the FAZ, the INLFAZ has a relatively constant thickness at the margins of the FAZ, suggesting the presence of retinal capillaries is needed to sustain an INLFAZ thickness greater than 60 μm. A smaller FAZ area is associated with a vertically elongated FAZ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6870-6877
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope
  • foveal avascular zone
  • retinal capillaries
  • retinal thickness
  • spectral-domain optical coherence tomography


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