Higher-order aberrations in amblyopia
: an analysis of pre- and post-wavefront-guided laser refractive correction

  • Anne Salmon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisOphthalmic Doctorate


For more than a century it has been known that the eye is not a perfect optical system, but rather a system that suffers from aberrations beyond conventional prescriptive descriptions of defocus and astigmatism. Whereas traditional refraction attempts to describe the error of the eye with only two parameters, namely sphere and cylinder, measurements of wavefront aberrations depict the optical error with many more parameters. What remains questionable is the impact these additional parameters have on visual function.
Some authors have argued that higher-order aberrations have a considerable effect on visual function and in certain cases this effect is significant enough to induce amblyopia. This has been referred to as ‘higher-order aberration-associated amblyopia’. In such cases, correction of higher-order aberrations would not restore visual function.
Others have reported that patients with binocular asymmetric aberrations display an associated unilateral decrease in visual acuity and, if the decline in acuity results from the aberrations alone, such subjects may have been erroneously diagnosed as amblyopes. In these cases, correction of higher-order aberrations would restore visual function. This refractive entity has been termed ‘aberropia’.
In order to investigate these hypotheses, the distribution of higher-order aberrations in strabismic, anisometropic and idiopathic amblyopes, and in a group of visual normals, was analysed both before and after wavefront-guided laser refractive correction.
The results show: (i) there is no significant asymmetry in higher-order aberrations between amblyopic and fixing eyes prior to laser refractive treatment; (ii) the mean magnitude of higher-order aberrations is similar within the amblyopic and visually normal populations; (iii) a significant improvement in visual acuity can be realised for adult amblyopic patients utilising wavefront-guided laser refractive surgery and a modest increase in contrast sensitivity was observed for the amblyopic eye of anisometropes following treatment (iv) an overall trend towards increased higher-order aberrations following wavefront-guided laser refractive treatment was observed for both visually normal and amblyopic eyes. In conclusion, while the data do not provide any direct evidence for the concepts of either ‘aberropia’ or ‘higher-order aberration-associated amblyopia’, it is clear that gains in visual acuity and contrast sensitivity may be realised following laser refractive treatment of the amblyopic adult eye. Possible mechanisms by which these gains are realised are discussed.
Date of Award19 Jan 2015
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStephen Anderson (Supervisor) & Dan Reinstein (Supervisor)


  • visual gain
  • anisometropic
  • strabismus
  • idiopathic amblyopia
  • laser eye surgery

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