Does the COVID-19 Pandemic Spell the End for the Direct Ophthalmoscope?

Ophthalmol Ther. 2020 Dec;9(4):689-692. doi: 10.1007/s40123-020-00295-1. Epub 2020 Aug 29.


Despite advances in ophthalmic diagnostics, the direct ophthalmoscope remains a key clinical skill taught to medical students and is the tool of choice for retina examination among non-ophthalmic physicians. However, in recent years viable alternatives have become available. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced a major re-thinking in medical education worldwide. In this commentary, we examined the current merits and limitations of the direct ophthalmoscope in both the clinical sense and in the context of infection control. Furthermore, we compared the direct ophthalmoscope with alternatives, including commercially available portable non-mydriatic fundus cameras, that would allow a change in focus during ophthalmic teaching. We concluded that the latter will better prepare our medical students for the age of telemedicine and deep-learning systems. While the COVID-19 pandemic will not be the sole reason for the 'death' of the direct ophthalmoscope, the global situation will inevitably serve to expedite long overdue changes in our teaching of ophthalmic skills to non-ophthalmic physicians.

Keywords: COVID-19; Direct ophthalmoscopy; Medical education; Pandemic.

Publication types

  • Letter