Measuring geographic atrophy in advanced age-related macular degeneration

Janet S. Sunness, Neil M. Bressler, Yan Tian, Judith Alexander, Carol A. Applegate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. To present a method developed for measuring areas of geographic atrophy (GA) in advanced age-related macular degeneration. Methods. A microfilm reader projected the 30°fundus photograph of the macula. Retinal landmarks, atrophic areas, and spared areas within the atrophy were traced, without access to drawings of other years. The total atrophic area was calculated, as was the atrophy within a four-disc-area circle centered on the estimated foveal center. The configuration of the atrophy was documented. Results. Avoidable sources of discrepancy included variability in peripapillary atrophy seen on the photograph, and variability seen in the extent of the field. Reproducibility studies found a median absolute difference of 0.19 Macular Photocoagulation Study disc areas (DA) in total atrophy between repeat drawings, with 75% of repeat drawings having a difference of less than 0.33 DA. For central atrophy measures, there was a median difference of 0.08 DA, with 75% of pairs having a difference of less than 0.18 DA. Features making the definition of borders of GA difficult include the presence of drusen and pigmentary alteration, a fundus in which choroidal vessels are easily visible, and variation in the appearance of GA within a single area of atrophy. Conclusions. This method provides a reliable means of measuring the size of atrophic areas in GA and will be useful for measuring longitudinal change. It may be difficult to determine whether central spared areas are present, and correlation with visual acuity and macular perimetry may be helpful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1761-1769
Number of pages9
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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