Purpose: To identify local retinal abnormalities in diabetic patients with and without retinopathy, by using the multifocal electroretinogram (M-ERG).
Methods: Electroretinograms were recorded at 103 discrete retinal locations in each eye of eight persons with nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) and eight diabetic persons without retinopathy, using VERIS (EDI, San Mateo, CA). The amplitude and implicit time of each local (first-order) retinal response were derived and compared with normal values obtained from 16 age-matched, nondiabetic subjects. Maps of local response amplitude and implicit time were compared with fundus photographs taken at the time of testing.
Results: In eyes with NPDR, the implicit times of responses from retinal sites manifesting clinical pathologic fundus lesions (e.g., microaneurysms and focal edema), were markedly delayed (e.g., up to 7 msec from normal). Responses from adjacent retinal sites that were more normal in clinical appearance were also delayed, but to a lesser extent (e.g., 2-5 msec). Smaller, yet significant local response delays were also found in eyes without retinopathy. By contrast, local response amplitudes bore no consistent relationship to fundus abnormalities in eyes with retinopathy, and amplitudes were typically normal in eyes without retinopathy.
Conclusions: The M-ERG reveals local retinal dysfunction in diabetic eyes even before retinopathy. The magnitude of delay of local ERG implicit time reflects the degree of local clinical abnormality in eyes with retinopathy. Local response delays found in some eyes without retinopathy suggest that the M-ERG detects subclinical local retinal dysfunction in diabetes. Analysis of M-ERG implicit time, independent of amplitude, improves the sensitivity of detection of local retinal dysfunction in diabetes.