Two medical scientists at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Gartnavel General Hospital
have developed the UK’s most advanced eye screening system.
The new screening system can potentially save peoples’ eyesight because of its early detection technology.
Drs Stuart Parks and David Keating unveiled their pioneering development, the equivalent of a cardiogram for the eye, at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) general meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the weekend.
Sophisticated software developed by the two medical physicists, provides diagnosis and monitoring of retinal problems at a very early stage, including tunnel vision problems, vein occlusions or blockages.
It can all be done by plugging a machine little bigger than a blackberry into a pc, and in the future a simplified version may soon be available at High Street opticians.
The doctors are presenting their research before an audience of researchers and practitioners, while representatives from Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) will market its commercial potential.
Dr Parks and Dr Keating, based at the Tennent Institute of Ophthalmology within the hospital, have spent 14 years refining their system, known as multifocal electrophysiology.
The key is the groundbreaking computer software which interprets many electronic signals sent from different areas of the retina.
Dr Keating explained: “This system takes measurements from several hundred areas of the retina and these signal responses offer a map of the retinal function.
“From this information disorders can be detected at an early stage and their progress monitored.”
When a patient comes for a screening appointment their eyes are first dilated using drops.
Small electrodes are applied to the forehead and sides of the face, and a tiny electrode attached to a very fine thread is placed under the eye-lid.
The patient is then asked to look at a computer screen or large projection with an image of hexagonal shapes.
These images flicker and the impulses are sent to the computer for analysis.
The test takes around eight minutes, with the images displayed 16 times in 30 second bursts.
Dr Keating went on: “Eye vessels are the smallest in the body, so disease can be detected at an early stage and treatment assessed.”
The information received is more accurate than a consultation with a patient, as Dr Parks explained:
“The advantage is that this technique is an objective test. All the others rely on what the patient tells you, and they won’t necessarily understand what the problem is.
“They certainly can’t explain where the defect is, whereas this technique is a valuable tool in assessing retinal function and detecting a range of eye disorders.”
Dr Parks added: “As well as detection, the system will also monitor the toxic effect on the function of the eyes of drugs the patient is taking for other conditions.”
More than 6000 patients have been referred from all over Scotland to this national screening service, the youngest being only six-years-old.
SHIL is the organisation set up to develop and commercialise new ideas from NHS Scotland staff.
The aim is to take these ideas to market so they are available to improve healthcare on a wider scale, and at the same time making sure that profit is returned to the NHS.
Elaine Gemmell from SHIL said: “The success of the Multifocal Imager will demonstrate that new ideas from within NHS Scotland are worth pursuing. There will always be ways of improving patient care and it is NHS staff that are best placed to identify those opportunities. I hope that the Multifocal Imager example will encourage staff across NHS Scotland to come forward with their own ideas.”
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