Background: Recently a technique of imaging the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) has been developed that takes advantages of its intrinsic fluorescence derived from lipofuscin. The purpose of this study was to document the distribution of fundus autofluorescence in patients with various retinal diseases and its change over time.
Methods: The intensity and spatial distribution of fundus autofluorescence was documented in 318 eyes from 159 patients with various retinal diseases using a confocal Laser Scanning Ophthalmoscope. Thirty patients with macular dystrophies and 30 with age-related macular disease underwent serial examinations over a period of 1-3 years in order to monitor the changes over time of fundus autofluorescence.
Results: Absent autofluorescence corresponded well spatially with outer retinal atrophy in eyes with retinitis pigmentosa and rod-cone dystrophy. Abnormally high background autofluorescence was seen in the macular region in some patients with dominant and recessive retinitis pigmentosa and rod-cone dystrophies. In areas of macular edema fundus autofluorescence was abnormal. Fundus autofluorescence showed changes over time in most of the eyes with retinal diseases studied.
Conclusion: Fundus autofluorescence allows documentation of areas of photoreceptor cell loss in eyes with retinitis pigmentosa and rod-cone dystrophies. If abnormal high background autofluorescence in the surviving areas occurs only in some patients with retinitis pigmentosa, the technique may serve to distinguish the regional from the diffuse type of disease. Over time, fundus autofluorescence may demonstrate change or may remain stable.