DURHAM, N.C., Sept. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. biomedical engineers say they have developed a handheld device that can identify signs of an eye disease that can blind premature babies.
The technology, developed in part at the Duke University Medical Center, uses spectral domain optical coherence tomography to create a 3D picture of the back of the eye.
"This new tool is changing the way we identify eye conditions in infants," said Dr. Cynthia Toth, a professor of ophthalmology at the Duke Eye Center, who led the study.
The scientists said retinopathy of prematurity is one of the most common causes of vision loss in children, occurring when babies are born prematurely and their retinal blood vessels don't fully develop. Current screening for the condition is based on two-dimensional images taken either with an ophthalmoscope or a camera placed directly on the infant's cornea.
"Examining the retina with these methods is like looking at the surface of the ocean and only seeing dimly into the shallow water," Toth said. "You cannot see what lies below."
The new device, however, uses a narrow beam of light to create a 3D high-resolution map of the intricate detail in the retina's layers. "This is like looking into an aquarium from the side, where all the fish at every depth are visible," Toth said.
The study is detailed in the online edition of the journal Ophthalmology.