Researchers from Duke University have developed and clinically tested a new low-cost, portable optical coherence tomography (OCT) retinal scanner. Their work, recently published in the journal of Translational Vision Science and Technology, demonstrates that, when tested on 60 patients with and without retinal diseases, their device has image quality that is about 95% that of expensive, high quality retinal scanners, making it sufficient for diagnostic purposes.
Currently, OCT retinal scanners cost upwards of $100,000, and are bulky and technically challenging to operate, which means that only large eye centers can afford them. The system developed by Duke University researchers is designed to be cheaper thanks to an optical redesign and the use of 3D-printed components.
It works like an ultrasound, except instead of sending sound waves and monitoring their time to return, it uses light waves and measures a change in the phase of those waves. Essentially, the system compares light waves that have been sent into the eye with a reference wave that has not traveled through the eye.
The low-cost OCT system was successfully used in a clinical study. The researchers showed that for a total cost of about $5,000, they achieved an image quality that was 94.4% that of high performance, expensive systems. They additionally demonstrated that images captured with the device were clinically useful, and could be used to make accurate diagnoses.
“I have been very impressed by the quality of images from the low-cost device—it is absolutely comparable to our standard commercial machines,” said J. Niklas Ulrich, a retina surgeon and associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine that performed the clinical studies with the low-cost device. “It obviously lacks some bells and whistles of our $100k+ OCT scanners, but allows for accurate diagnosis of structural retinal disease as well as monitoring of treatment success. The setup is quick and easy with a small footprint, allowing the device to perform well in smaller satellite offices. I hope that the development of this low-cost OCT will improve patients’ access to OCT technology and contribute to saving sight in North Carolina as well as nationally and worldwide.“
Here’s a Duke University video presenting the new technology:
The publication in Translational Vision Science and Technology: First Clinical Application of Low-Cost OCT