Three medical scientists and engineers at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’ s Gartnavel General Hospital have taken their unique eye screening system to the next level.
Drs Stuart Parks and David Keating, and Donald Smith, have built on sophisticated software they originally created to provide early detection of eye disease.
Dr Parks said: “Basically it is a new method of stimulating the eye which allows us to look at the processes going on in the eye which we couldn’t do previously.
“It will make it easier for us to differentiate between different conditions and eye diseases.
“It’s an improved method of detection and following the development of disease, and will also give us a more accurate method of assessing the ethicacy of treatments.”
The new screening system can potentially save peoples’ eyesight because of its early detection technology.
Still in the experimental stages, a patient’s eyes are first dilated using drops.before sitting in front of a custom-built television screen.
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 watches extremely fast moving, flickering, hexagonal images and impulses are sent to the computer, via a machine little bigger than a blackberry, for analysis.
Sophisticated software already developed by the medical physicists, provides diagnosis and monitoring of retinal problems at a very early stage, including tunnel vision problems, vein occlusions or blockages.
Dr Parks added: “This upgrading of the technology will provide us with more accuracy in discovering where any disease is developing.”
In a collaboration between the Medical Device Unit, Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering and the Tennent Institute of Ophthalmology within the hospital, the medical scientists have spent 16 years refining their system, known as multifocal electrophysiology.
The key is the original 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.”
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.”
Thousands of 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 Senior Programme Manager for SHIL said “The NHSGGC team has identified a need for a custom stimulus that will future proof the Multifocal Technology. SHIL are delighted to support their work. There is no one better placed to devise new and innovative ways to improve patient care than those who deliver it. The team behind the Multifocal Imager and the LED stimulus are a very good example of how those working in the front line of the NHS can improve patient care and generate financial income for the NHS at the same time. ”
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