Background: To determine the feasibility and efficacy of a retinal telephotocoagulation treatment plan for diabetic macular edema.
Methods: Prospective, interventional cohort study at two clinical sites. Sixteen eyes of ten subjects with diabetic macular edema underwent navigated focal laser photocoagulation using a novel teleretinal treatment plan. Clinic 1 (King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) collected retinal images and fundus fluorescein angiogram. Clinic 2 (Palmetto Retina Center, West Columbia, SC, USA) created image-based treatment plans based on which macular laser photocoagulation was performed back at clinic 1. The primary outcome of the study was feasibility of image transfer and performing navigated laser photocoagulation for subjects with diabetic macular edema between two distant clinics. Secondary measures were change in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and central retinal thickness (CRT) by spectral-domain optical coherence tomography at 3 months after treatment.
Results: The teleretinal treatment plan was able to be successfully completed in all 16 eyes. The mean logMAR BCVA at baseline was 0.49 ± 0.1, which remained stable (0.45 ± 0.1) 3 months after treatment (p = 0.060). The CRT improved from 290.1 ± 37.6 μm at baseline to 270.8 ± 27.7 μm 3 months after treatment (p = 0.005). All eyes demonstrated improvement in the area of retinal edema after laser photocoagulation, and no eyes demonstrated visual acuity loss 3 months after treatment.
Conclusion: This study introduces the concept of retinal telephotocoagulation for diabetic macular edema, and demonstrates the feasibility and safety of using telemedicine to perform navigated retinal laser treatments regardless of geographical distance.
Keywords: Diabetic retinopathy; Macular edema; Navigated retinal photocoagulation; Telemedicine; Teleophthalmology.