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How accurate is fundus autofluorescence imaging for diagnosing and monitoring retinal conditions? New SHTAC systematic review published

Published: 6 May 2016
Eye scanner
A healthy retina produces a faint natural ‘glow’ known as autofluorescence

A SHTAC systematic review of the accuracy of fundus autofluorescence imaging for diagnosing and monitoring retinal conditions is now available from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Journals Library.

The retina of the eye, where light is detected, is a complex and delicate structure that can suffer from many diseases, some of which may seriously impede vision and can lead to blindness. A healthy retina produces a faint natural ‘glow’ known as autofluorescence, but retinal diseases, as well as natural ageing, can alter the distribution and intensity of the autofluorescence. Specialised optical instruments have been developed that are capable of measuring autofluorescence, and these could potentially assist in the diagnosis and/or monitoring of some retinal diseases. However, the reliability of this approach, known technically as ‘fundus autofluorescence imaging’, is not known.

To investigate the accuracy of fundus autofluorescence imaging for diagnosing or monitoring retinal diseases, SHTAC conducted a systematic review of studies which had reported relevant quantitative test accuracy evidence, including test sensitivity and specificity. The results indicate that whilst fundus autofluorescence imaging is already used widely in research studies, it has mainly been employed qualitatively to describe retinal changes. Data on the quantitative reliability of the method are generally lacking, and the studies that have provided relevant data suffer from a number of limitations which reduce confidence in their findings. As such it is not presently possible to draw definitive conclusions on the quantitative accuracy of fundus autofluorescence imaging. The SHTAC review has critically evaluated the available evidence and provides recommendations for future research priorities.

This work was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme and has been published in the NIHR Journals Library Health Technology Assessment. For more information on SHTAC’s research see our research pages on eye diseases and diagnostic technologies.

 

 

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