Telemedicine screening of glaucoma

Telemed J. 1999 Fall;5(3):283-90. doi: 10.1089/107830299312032.


Objectives: Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness. More than 80,000 Americans suffer permanent vision loss from the disease. Widespread screening is fundamental in limiting the incidence of glaucoma-associated blindness. This pilot study explored the use of stereo digital images taken at a primary care center for telemedicine review by an off-site specialist as a means of screening for glaucoma.

Materials and methods: Thirty-two diabetic patients were screened at a family medicine clinic. None had previously been diagnosed with glaucoma. A senior optometry student took stereoscopic digital and 35-mm optic disc photographs with a nonmydriatic retinal camera. The digital images were forwarded to a remote ophthalmologist for review. The conventional color stereo slide pairs of the same eyes were subsequently reviewed for comparison. Agreement on signs of glaucomatous disc changes between the two imaging systems was analyzed.

Results: Twenty-six of 32 eyes' digital and 35-mm photographs were analyzed. Six of 32 eyes (18.8%) could not be compared due to lack of matching 35-mm slides or digital images. Out of 26 eyes, lamina cribosa visibility was undeterminable in 8 eyes' digital images and 3 other eyes' 35-mm slides. Agreement among digital images and 35-mm slides of the remaining eyes was: 100%-vertical elongation, barring of vessels, bayoneting of vessels, and drance hemorrhage; 96.2%-focus notching of rim and rim pallor; 93.3%-lamina cribosa visability; 92. 3%-overpass cupping; 88.5%-focal enlargement; 84.6%-parapapillary halo; 80%-nerve fiber visibility; 65.4%-parapapillary atrophy. Parapapillary halo (p = 0.046) and nerve fiber layer visibility (p = 0.18) were detected on some 35-mm slides but not seen on matching digital views.

Conclusion: Evaluations of cup-to-disc ratio (C/D) using both methods were in general agreement. However, some digital images were noted as too dark for assessing fine glaucomatous disc changes. Stereo digital images taken with a nonmydriatic camera by nonophthalmic photographers is a promising alternative for glaucoma screening in primary care settings. Telemedicine offers efficient communications with off-site glaucoma specialists. A larger study population is necessary to determine the overall effectiveness of using stereo digital imagery and teleophthalmology for glaucoma screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Telemedicine*
  • Texas