Introduction: In adults, evaluation of fundus autofluorescence (AF) plays an important role in the differential diagnosis of retinal diseases. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of recording AF in children and teenagers and to define typical AF findings of various hereditary retinal diseases during childhood.
Methods: Fifty patients aged 2 to 16 years with hereditary retinal diseases were analysed using the HRA (Heidelberg Retina Angiograph). To enhance the AF signal, a mean of up to 16 single images was calculated. Twenty healthy children (aged 4-16 years) served as controls.
Results: In many children as young as 5 years of age and even in one 2-year-old child good AF images could be obtained. To achieve high quality images, larger image series (about 50 single images) were taken and appropriate single images were chosen manually to calculate the mean. Characteristically, Stargardt disease shows a central oval area of reduced AF, often surrounded by more irregular AF. In patients with Best disease, a central round structure with regular or irregular intense AF is visualised. Some patients with X-linked retinoschisis show central radial structures. In many patients with rod-cone dystrophies, a central oval ring-shaped area of increased AF is present. In early-onset severe retinal dystrophy (EOSRD) with RPE65 mutations AF is completely absent, whereas in other forms of Leber congenital amaurosis, AF is normal.
Discussion: Fundus autofluorescence may visualise disease-specific distributions of lipofuscin in the retinal pigment epithelium, often not (yet) visible on ophthalmoscopy. AF images can be used in children to differentiate hereditary retinal diseases and to facilitate follow-up controls. In many cases, four single images are sufficient to analyse the AF pattern.