New Diagnostic Camera Will Make Screening For Diabetic Retinopathy Affordable

March 18, 2009

Indiana University announced today that Dr. Ann Elsner, director of the University’s Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research, and her research team are nearing completion of a diagnostic camera that could aid in saving the vision of millions of people worldwide by making early screening for signs of diabetic retinopathy affordable. Dr. Elsner believes screening to prevent vision loss and blindness from diabetic retinopathy  could be expanded to millions of underserved people once the more affordable diagnostic camera is available.

The Indiana University press release explains that the new camera uses near infrared light, high-contrast laser scanning, a confocal aperture that minimizes light scatter in the eye, and inexpensive two-dimensional sensors to obtain a high-contrast, black-and-white image of the optic nerve head, which is the gateway for blood vessels into the eye. Veins and arteries carry blood and oxygen to different regions of the retina, and diabetic retinopathy can cause hemorrhaging that allows blood to leak onto the retina and cause blind spots.

Early detection allows for peripheral, less-damaging blind spots to be treated prior to more-damaging impairment of the macula, where central vision is based. The device also images the macula, and the smaller blood vessels that nourish it.

As Dr. Elsner explains:

“No matter how high the resolution of an image is, you can miss the pathology for diabetic retinopathy if the contrast isn’t there. By doing more scans with better contrast, we not only improve our ability to affect a large proportion of people who are unaware they have diabetes, but we also improve diagnostics for that demographic of the population that have small pupils or that have dark eyes — attributes that make detection more difficult.”

The release further explained that in addition to developing a tool that will cost about one-fourth the cost of its current counterparts and also improve diagnostics, another benefit of Elsner’s device is that dilation of pupils in patients would no longer be required because infrared light, which does not affect the light-sensitive pupil, is used during the scanning process.

The camera is also designed to be easy to use so that unskilled operators in remote locations can acquire the image of the eye and then transmit it to a professional for evaluation.

The camera will be marketed commercially through Elsner’s start-up company, Aeon Imaging, LLC.

Read the full release.




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One Response to “New Diagnostic Camera Will Make Screening For Diabetic Retinopathy Affordable”

  • Diabetic retinopathy is certainly going to rise in our life time as the prevalence of diabetes mellitus continues to rise, at least in our country. Cheaper, more affordable, techniques aimed at screening may be part of the answer in other countries that do not have the health care infrastructure presently in the U.S.

    I commend Dr. Elsner and her colleagues for this promising new device and will be watching for further developments. In this country, as a retina specialist, I think another problem in detecting the disease still lies with both patient and physician education. Both patients and physicians need to become wary of the NEED for screening – affordable or otherwise.

    Randall V. Wong, M.D.
    Diseases and Surgery of the Retina