Comparison of human tear film osmolarity measured by electrical impedance and freezing point depression techniques

Cornea. 2010 Sep;29(9):1036-41. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e3181cd9a1d.


Purpose: Tear hyperosmolarity is diagnostic of dry eye disease (DED), yet difficulty in measurement has limited its utility; development of new instruments could facilitate its clinical application. This study compares the new OcuSense TearLab osmometer (OcuSense, Inc, San Diego, CA), based on electrical impedance "lab-on-a-chip" nanoliter technology, with the freezing point depression Clifton Osmometer (Clifton Technical Physics, Hartford, NY).

Methods: Thirty-six subjects were recruited: 15 DED (9 women, 6 men age: 41 +/- 16 years) and 21 controls (12 women, 9 men age: 35 +/- 12 years); criteria for DED were noninvasive tear breakup time <10 seconds, Schirmer I test <5 mm, and positive symptoms. Samples were collected from the inferior tear meniscus for testing with both osmometers.

Results: Osmolarity values measured with OcuSense TearLab were 308 +/- 6 and 321 +/- 16 mOsm/L for controls and dry eye, respectively, and those measured with Clifton were 310 +/- 7 and 323 +/- 14 mOsm/L for controls and dry eye, respectively; these values were significantly different. Significant correlation was found between OcuSense and Clifton measurements (r = 0.904; P = 0.006). Bland-Altman analysis revealed agreement between techniques; the majority of points fell within the 95% confidence limits, and actual values differed by less than 1%. A cutoff value of >316 mOsm/L, derived from the distribution of osmolarity values, was used to diagnose DED with an effectiveness of 73% sensitivity, 90% specificity, and 85% positive predictive value for the OcuSense and 73% sensitivity, 71% specificity, and 65% positive predictive value for the Clifton in the study samples.

Conclusions: Tear film osmolarity measured with the OcuSense TearLab system correlates well with the Clifton Osmometer. The new instrument has the potential to provide clinicians with a readily available clinically applicable measure, which could become the gold standard in DED.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Ophthalmological / instrumentation*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Electric Impedance
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tears / chemistry*
  • Transition Temperature
  • Vapor Pressure