Purpose: To assess the effect of cataract phacoemulsification and intraocular lens (IOL) implantation on retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness using scanning laser polarimetry (SLP). Setting: Eye Clinic, Trieste University, Italy. Methods: Forty-eight eyes were evaluated prospectively the day before and 30 days after cataract phacoemulsification and foldable IOL implantation. In each eye, lens opacity grading according to the Lens Opacities Classification System III (LOCS III), and axial length (AL) measurements were performed. Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness was quantified at baseline by means of SLP and anterior segment birefringence compensation was evaluated acquiring macular retardation map (MRM). Acrylic and silicone IOLs were implanted randomly. After surgery, RNFL thickness was reevaluated, and MRM was reacquired. Macular retardation map pattern variations regarding baseline profile were classified into 3 groups: no variation, bow-tie profile enhancement, or attenuation. Distribution of IOL power, AL, and cataract type in the 3 groups was assessed, as were presurgery and postsurgery SLP parameters with mean values (±SD) compared by paired t test. Results: Twenty-two eyes (Group 1, 45.8%) showed no MRM variation, 14 (Group 2, 29.2%) an enhancement, and 12 (Group 3, 25%) an attenuation. In Group 1, no significant RNFL thickness variation occurred. In Group 2, variation 10% to 15% was measured, whereas thickening a 8% to 15% thinning appeared in Group 3. Variations occurred irrespective of IOL material, AL, or cataract type. Conclusions: Cataract surgery with IOL implantation was associated with an MRM profile change and RNFL thickness variations in 54.2% of eyes. Variations are probably related to opacified lens removal. A new baseline SLP reading is mandatory after cataract surgery.
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