Examining the ocular fundus in neurology

Curr Opin Neurol. 2019 Feb;32(1):105-110. doi: 10.1097/WCO.0000000000000637.


Purpose of review: The funduscopic examination can be a technically difficult, and often omitted, portion of the neurologic examination, despite its great potential to influence patient care.

Recent findings: Medical practitioners are often first taught to examine the ocular fundus using a direct ophthalmoscope, however, this skill requires frequent practice. Nonmydriatic tabletop and portable fundus photography and even smartphone-based photography offer alternative and practical means for approaching examination of the ocular fundus. These alternative tools have been shown to be practical in a variety of settings including ambulatory clinics and emergency departments. Decreased retinal microvascular density detected with fundus photography has been linked to accelerated rates of cognitive decline. Research has also found optic disc pallor and retinopathy detected via fundus photography to be more prevalent in patients with recent stroke or transient ischemic attack.

Summary: Alternative methods of funduscopic examination based on fundus photography have the potential to improve the ease of use, portability, and availability of funduscopy. Recognition of changes in retinal microvasculature has the potential to noninvasively identify patients at the highest risk for cognitive impairment and cerebrovascular disease. However, further research is needed to determine the specific utility of measurements of retinal microvascular changes in clinical care. Innovative funduscopy techniques offer neurologists new approaches to this essential facet of the neurological examination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fundus Oculi*
  • Humans
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Ophthalmoscopy / methods*
  • Photography*