Health Team

Device may spare children from eye surgery

Posted September 17, 2009 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2009 6:40 p.m. EDT

— Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP is one of the most common causes of poor vision in young children.

Even the best techniques to examine an infant's retinas may miss the earliest signs of a problem when it could be more easily treated. But Duke University Medical Center is looking at a new tool that may spare some young children from eye surgery.

The OCT bounces a tiny beam of light off the retina and sends back a cross sectional view. It's the kind of exam that used to be limited to older patients sitting with their head steadied by a chin rest.

“I can position it in the eye while a child is sleeping in a bassinet,” said Duke Ophthalmologist Dr. Cynthia Toth.

Toth said abnormal blood vessels in the retina can be treated with a laser, but if early exams miss the problem, the disease worsens and requires surgery.

“I'd rather not operate. I'd rather get in early on the disease,” Toth said.

The device may reveal signs of splitting in the retinal layers or the development of cysts.

Other standard exams are done as well for comparison purposes.

Toth said there are clinical trials looking at new ways to treat ROP. She believes that early detection using the handheld OCT can help any new therapies be more effective.