New Device Finds Early Signs

photo: eye

SD OCT could also have practical
applications for improving the
diagnosis and treatment of babies
suspected of having retinal diseases;
© Pixelio

The technology, developed in part by Duke biomedical engineers, uses spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD OCT) to create a 3-D picture of the back of the eye. "This new tool is changing the way we identify eye conditions in infants," says Cynthia Toth, an ophthalmologist at the Duke Eye Center, who is leading the study.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is one of the most common causes of vision loss in children, affecting about 16,000 babies each year, according to the National Eye Institute. It occurs when babies are born prematurely and their retinal blood vessels don't develop fully. Instead, the vessels grow abnormally and are prone to leaking and contracting. That can pull the retina out of position, causing retinal detachments that can lead to visual loss and blindness.

Current screening for ROP is based on two-dimensional images taken either with an ophthalmoscope or a camera placed directly on the infant's cornea. "Examining the retina with these methods is like looking at the surface of the ocean and only seeing dimly into the shallow water," says Toth.

SD OCT, on the other hand, uses a narrow beam of light to create a 3-D high-resolution map of the intricate detail in the retina's layers. "This is like looking into an aquarium from the side, where all the fish at every depth are visible," Toth says.

Ophthalmologists at Duke Eye Center pioneered and have been using OCT to accurately diagnose adult eyes for more than a decade, and in the past two years, Toth has been studying the application of this technology for retinal diseases in children.

"SD OCT reveals the retina in greater detail than was ever before realized, allowing us to observe disease at almost the cellular level" she says.

New advances in OCT led Joseph Izatt, a professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology at Duke, to create the handheld probe which can snap pictures over 40 times faster than previous versions of OCT. That means multiple scans of the eye now take only seconds. It also means the portable handheld SD OCT system can be taken directly to premature infants in the incubator.; Source: Duke University Medical Center