Development and Validation of a Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Modality Using a Hand-Held Nonmydriatic Digital Retinal Camera by Physician Graders at a Tertiary-Level Medical Clinic: Protocol for a Validation Study

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Dec 10;7(12):e10900. doi: 10.2196/10900.


Background: Visual impairment and blindness from diabetic retinopathy (DR), which can be reduced by early screening and treatment, is an emerging public health concern in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) owing to the increasing prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM). However, no systematic screening exists in most LMIC settings. The Western province of Sri Lanka has the highest prevalence of DM (18.6%) in the country. A situational analysis identified a marked gap in DR screening (DRS) and treatment services uptake in this region; only opportunistic screening is practiced currently.

Objective: The aim of this protocol is to describe the methods of development and validation of a DRS intervention using a hand-held nonmydriatic digital camera by physician graders in a non-ophthalmological setting at a tertiary-level medical clinic to propose a valid and feasible modality to improve uptake.

Methods: DRS modality was developed after assessing barriers and identifying the most appropriate personnel, methods, and location for screening services, following formative research work. The validation will be conducted in a public sector tertiary care center in the Western province of Sri Lanka. The selected physicians will be trained on capturing and grading images according to a valid locally adopted protocol. Two physicians rated high on training will screen a sample of 506 people with DM at a medical clinic. They will use nonmydriatic and mydriatic 2-field imaging strategy. The validity of the proposed screening procedure will be assessed and compared with the mydriatic indirect biomicroscopic examination by a senior retinologist.

Results: The validity of screening by physician graders will be analyzed and the sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values (with 95% CIs) calculated by the dilation status and for each grader. The diagnostic accuracy at each level of severity of DR will be assessed to define the most appropriate referable criteria. Data is currently being collected.

Conclusions: The outcome of this study will be useful for the detection of a defined level of DR at non-ophthalmological setting to filter the people with DM before referral to an eye clinic. This will be helpful to improve the uptake and identify risk groups in advance to prevent sight-threatening DR. Furthermore, evidence from this study will be useful for the implementation of a DRS program in this region and in similar communities.

International registered report identifier (irrid): PRR1-10.2196/10900.

Keywords: Sri Lanka; diabetes; diabetic retinopathy; digital imaging; hand-held camera; mydriatic; nonmydriatic; physician grader; screening.