Purpose: Transcorneal electrical stimulation (TES) is a novel treatment approach for patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). With progression of RP, loss of photoreceptors leads to less oxygen consumption and lower demand in the retina. Retinal oximetry (RO), as a non-invasive method to analyse oxygen saturation in retinal vessels, promises to be a useful therapy monitoring tool. The aim of our study was to observe changes in RO that would be attributed to therapeutic intervention.
Methods: A total of 43 eyes of 22 subjects (11♀ 11♂) suffering from RP were examined at baseline, after the first stimulation, 1 week and 6 months after TES (OkuStim®). Stimulation was performed for 30 min weekly at 200% of the individual phosphene threshold, simultaneously on both eyes. The oxygen saturation was examined at baseline and following TES stimulation with the oxygen saturation tool of the Retinal Vessel Analyser (RVA; IMEDOS Systems UG, Jena, Germany). The global oxygen saturation parameters (in %), within 1.0-1.5 optic disc diameters from the disc margin, in retinal arterioles (A-SO2) and venules (V-SO2) were estimated and their difference (A-V SO2) was calculated. In addition, we evaluated the diameters (in μm) in the corresponding arterioles (D-A) and venules (D-V). ANOVA-based linear mixed-effects models were calculated with SPSS®.
Results: Six months after TES treatment, the mean A-SO2 increased (from 96.48 ± 12.27 to 100.15 ± 5.56%, p = 0.09), while the V-SO2 decreased (from 61.61 ± 12.78 to 59.79 ± 11.15%, p = 0.48). The A-V SO2, which represents the oxygen consumption of the retina, showed a statistically significant increase from 34.87 ± 9.38% at baseline to 41.36 ± 9.18% after 6 months (p = 0.02). TES had no influence on the D-A and D-V (p > 0.6).
Conclusion: These data indicate that TES therapy in RP leads to an increased oxygen consumption of the retina. RO may thus serve as a sensitive monitoring method for TES therapy in RP.
Keywords: Inherited retinal diseases; OkuStim; Oxygen saturation; Retinal vessel diameter; Retinal vessel oximetry; Retinitis pigmentosa; TES; Transcorneal electrical stimulation.