Portable infrared pupillometry: a review

Anesth Analg. 2015 Jun;120(6):1242-53. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000314.


Portable infrared pupillometers provide an objective measure of pupil size and pupillary reflexes, which for most clinicians was previously only a visual impression. But despite the fact that pupillometry can uncover aspects of how the human pupil reacts to drugs and noxious stimulation, the use of pupillometry has not gained widespread use among anesthesiologists and critical care physicians. The present review is an introduction to the physiology of pupillary reflexes and the currently established clinical applications of infrared pupillometry, which will hopefully encourage physicians to use this diagnostic tool in their clinical practice. Portable infrared pupillometry was introduced in 1989. The technology involves flooding the eye with infrared light and then measuring the reflected image on an infrared sensor. Pupil size, along with variables of the pupillary light reflex and pupillary reflex dilation, is calculated by the instrument and displayed on a screen immediately after each time-stamped measurement. Use of these instruments has uncovered aspects of how the human pupil reacts to drugs and noxious stimulation. The primary clinical applications for portable pupillometry have been in the assessment of brainstem function. Portable pupillometry is useful in the management of pain because it allows for assessments of the effect of opioids and in the titration of combined regional-general anesthetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics / therapeutic use
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring / methods
  • Oculomotor Muscles / drug effects
  • Oculomotor Muscles / innervation*
  • Oculomotor Muscles / radiation effects
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pupil / drug effects
  • Pupil / physiology*
  • Pupil / radiation effects
  • Reflex, Pupillary* / drug effects
  • Reflex, Pupillary* / radiation effects
  • Transducers


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anesthetics