A new digital ophthalmoscope, devised by a research team led by the University of Warwick, can provide both doctors and high street optometrists with a hand-held eye disease diagnosis device equal to the power of bulky hospital-based eye diagnosis cameras. It will also give optometrists the ability to email detailed eye maps of patients to specialist eye doctors.
Ophthalmoscopes, which act as an illuminated microscope for the eye, have changed little in design in the last century. As a result the effective operation of the device is constrained by the skill, expertise and eyesight of the eye specialist.
The new digital ophthalmoscope (developed from a three-year research partnership bringing together the University of Warwick, City University, & UCL) uses a combination of specialist lens digital imaging and lighting technology which for the first time allows a high quality digital image to be captured and recorded by an ophthalmoscope.
University of Warwick research Professor Peter Bryanston-Cross has also been able to apply software used to stitch together detailed map images to assemble the captured images from the digital ophthalmoscope. This produces a highly detailed single picture of medical significance and usefulness. It provides a map of the eye equal to the field of view and resolution of the large “Fundus” cameras typically used in hospital settings to examine eyes. The new digital ophthalmoscope would also be around 10 times cheaper than a Fundus camera.
This technology will be a powerful tool in the hands of specialist eye doctors, but it will also revolutionize eye care on the high street. Previously high street opticians have had to rely on notes and hand drawn sketches when referring customers to eye clinics. This new technology will allow them to create and email detailed eye images to hospital specialists cutting patient referral and diagnosis times and massively easing the burden on expensive and overstretched hospital eye equipment.
Warwick Hospital consultant eye surgeon Gary Misson has been working with Professor Peter Bryanston-Cross’s digital ophthalmoscope research digital programme for several years. He says: “This is an exciting development as it makes an instrument that is traditionally difficult to use much easier to handle and therefore available for use to a wider range of health care workers. It will allow digital images of disease such as the potentially blinding complications of diabetes and glaucoma to be accurately and quickly sent to specialists who will then be able to arrange appropriate treatment. I foresee a relatively inexpensive instrument that is about the size of a mobile phone in common use in the near future”