Prototype of portable retina camera simplifies eye exams

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine and Massachusetts Eye and Ear at Harvard Medical School have developed a portable retina camera to be used in eye exams without the need for pupil-dilating eye drops.

Currently, ophthalmologists use the dilating drops in many routine exams while photographing the back of the eye. These drops take up to 30 minutes to open the pupil and prevent the iris from constricting in the presence of light. The drops can be uncomfortable and cause blurry vision for hours after the examination. The development of the portable retina camera makes exams easier for physicians and more comfortable for patients.

"As residents seeing patients in the hospital, there are often times when we are not allowed to dilate patients—neurosurgery patients for example," said Bailey Shen, MD, a second-year ophthalmology resident at the UIC College of Medicine. "Also, there are times when we find something abnormal in the back of the eye, but it is not practical to wheel the patient all the way over to the outpatient eye clinic just for a photograph."

The device connects an infrared camera to the board along with a dual infrared- and white-light-emitting diode. With a lens, display screen and cables, the camera can share pictures to others or include them in a patient’s electronic medical record.

"The device is currently just a prototype, but it shows that it is possible to build a cheap camera capable of taking quality pictures of the retina without dilating eye drops, " said Shen. "It would be cool someday if this device or something similar were carried around in the coat pockets of every ophthalmology resident and used by physicians outside of ophthalmology as well."