Electrophysiology in the investigation of acquired retinal disorders

Surv Ophthalmol. 2000 Jul-Aug;45(1):29-47. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6257(00)00125-9.


Electrophysiological research on acquired retinal disorders, both common and rare, is reviewed. Age is a major factor influencing electroretinogram (ERG) and electro-oculogram (EOG) findings. Bipolar or Müller cell death in the aging retina could account for much of the amplitude decline that is observed with age. In diabetic retinopathy, the oscillatory potentials can monitor the progression of the disease and indicate neuronal alterations rather than diabetic angiopathy of the retina. Human ERG studies on glaucoma concentrated on ERG measures that are dominated by inner retinal contributions. It has been shown that the pattern ERG can serve as a predictor of ocular hypertension's progression to glaucoma. In retinal disorders caused by endogenous intoxication, such as hepatic retinopathy, or exogenous intoxication from chronic lead exposure, ERG changes give an objective measure of the damage and allow to study the pathophysiological mechanisms that are involved. Inflammations of the choroid and the retina affect the standard ERG when they are diffuse. In central serous chorioretinopathy, functional disturbances can be revealed not only in the photoreceptors but also in the middle and inner retinal layers with the use of focal stimuli. Choroidal melanoma leads to large reductions of the EOG light peak-to-dark trough ratio through its influence on the transepithelial potential of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). In cancer-associated retinopathy, both the rod and cone ERGs are reduced. However, selective cone dysfunction has been described. In melanoma-associated retinopathy, the long flash ERG may reveal a specific pathophysiological mechanism, namely the affection of the ON-pathway with preservation of the OFF-pathway. ERG measurements can reveal vitamin A deficiency and are altered in cases with a mutation in the gene for the retinol binding protein in which other organs are not affected. Photochemical damage to the retina from light emission by the operating microscope can be assessed by electrophysiological methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrooculography
  • Electrophysiology / methods*
  • Electroretinography
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retina / physiopathology*
  • Retinal Diseases / genetics
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology*