Ophthalmologists from all over the world now have ophthalmology equipment which they can operate only with the palm of their hands for detecting different types of eye diseases. The size of the device is comparable to that of handheld digital camera which makes it even more comfortable and convenient for the specialists. The entire retina of the patient can be scanned within few seconds and it will help with the early discovery of different retinal diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The credit for the discovery of this ophthalmology equipment goes to a group of researchers from MIT. The description of this new gadget was made available on open-access journal named Biomedical Optics Express.
Even though, other companies and research groups have already developed such handheld devices by utilizing similar technologies but, there are a few things that distinguish this device from others. The ophthalmology equipment has been designed using cutting-edge technologies like 3D imaging at extreme high speeds, MEMS scanning mirror and techniques that will enable to correct unintentional movements by patients. The inclusion of such innovations is expected to allow the specialists to get comprehensive data with single measurements.
The diagnosis of retinal diseases generally requires the patient to visit the office of an optometrist or ophthalmologist where the diagnosis is carried out using table top ophthalmology equipment. But, only a handful of people make visits to specialists on a regular basis. Therefore, in order to improve access of the public to eye care, the group from MIT along with their collaborating partner Praevium/Thorlab and University of Erlangen developed this portable ophthalmology equipment so that patient’s are no longer required to visit the office of the specialist for retinal diagnosis. James Fujimoto, researcher from MIT stated that with the help of handheld equipments a wider population can be screened outside traditional offices where the diagnosis is carried out. These types of equipments can be used inside a paediatrician’s office, general physician’s office as well as in developing world.
Working of the Equipment
Optical Coherence Tomography or OCT technique is used by the ophthalmology equipment which was developed by the collaborators and MIT researchers during early 1990s. With the help of this technology infrared light beams are sent to the retina in the eye. Echoes of light then reflect back to the device which helps with the identification of the retina’s cross sectional tissue structure. This process is quite similar to ultrasound or radar imaging. OCT imagers (tabletop) have become the preferred choice of care when it comes to ophthalmology. The present generation of handheld scanners are primarily used for monitoring retinal surgery and imaging infants.
What used to be large equipment was reduced in size by the researchers with the help of MEMS mirror for scanning OCT imaging beam. Two designs were tested by the researchers which includes a design that was quite similar to flat screen display and handheld video camera. During the conduction of the tests, the researchers noticed that the ophthalmology equipment was capable of acquiring images which can be compared to traditional tabletop OCT devices normally used by ophthalmologists.
Motion instability associated with handheld devices has been taken care of by allowing the device to take several 3D images at extreme high speeds. This allows the ophthalmology equipment to scan a specific portion of the eye several times but from various scanning directions. By making use of the multiple 3D images, the distortions can be corrected which happen mainly because of the motion of the eye movements or hand of the operator. Fujimoto states that the next step of diagnosis include the evaluation of the technology within a clinical setting. However, the issue is that the device is quite expensive and before introducing this technology to offices of the doctors, manufacturers of the device need to find ways to supporting its higher cost or lower the cost of the device.
Importance of Early Screening
There are lots of people in this world who are not aware of their eye diseases and awareness comes only when irreversible vision loss takes place. According to Fujimoto, it is essential to detect and treat eye diseases before the arrival of any type of visual symptoms. A Canadian study conducted in the year 2003 showed that out of 25,000 people nearly fifteen percent had eye diseases although, visual symptoms were not present and 66.8 percent had 20/25 eyesight or better. Undetected eye diseases problems tend to get exacerbated with undiagnosed diabetes and rise of obesity. Fujimoto is of the opinion that OCT handheld technology can find its use in other medical facilities apart from ophthalmology. The introduction of such the new ophthalmology equipment has certainly paved the way for a brighter future where unnecessary vision loss can be avoided easily and conveniently without much of a trouble.
Author Bio: Tony Rollan provides consulting services to VSI (http://www.patternless.com/) and he is an author of many articles on all types of optical and ophthalmic equipment. Author like to write about medicine, health, alternative healing, sport and well being.