Optical coherence tomography (OCT) enables visualization of the living human retina with unprecedented high axial resolution. The transverse resolution of existing OCT approaches is relatively modest as compared to other retinal imaging techniques. In this context, the use of adaptive optics (AO) to correct for ocular aberrations in combination with OCT has recently been demonstrated to notably increase the transverse resolution of the retinal OCT tomograms. AO is required when imaging is performed through moderate and large pupil sizes. A fundamental difference of OCT as compared to other imaging techniques is the demand of polychromatic light to accomplish high axial resolution. In ophthalmic OCT applications, the performance is therefore also limited by ocular chromatic aberrations. In the current work, the effects of chromatic and monochromatic ocular aberrations on the quality of retinal OCT tomograms, especially concerning transverse resolution, sensitivity and contrast, are theoretically studied and characterized. The repercussion of the chosen spectral bandwidth and pupil size on the final transverse resolution of OCT tomograms is quantitatively examined. It is found that losses in the intensity of OCT images obtained with monochromatic aberration correction can be up to 80 %, using a pupil size of 8 mm diameter in combination with a spectral bandwidth of 120 nm full width at half maximum for AO ultrahigh resolution OCT. The limits to the performance of AO for correction of monochromatic aberrations in OCT are established. The reduction of the detected signal and the resulting transverse resolution caused by chromatic aberration of the human eye is found to be strongly dependent on the employed bandwidth and pupil size. Comparison of theoretical results with experimental findings obtained in living human eyes is also provided.
©2005 Optical Society of America