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Study: Australian optometrists need more technology training

18/10/2017By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
A UNSW study has suggested optometrists need to undergo more training if they are to properly utilise new eye-imaging technology for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

“Age-related macular degeneration was accurately diagnosed in 61% of cases, and this only improved by 5% using new imaging technologies.”
Dr Angelica Ly, Study lead and CEH optometrist

The research, conducted by scientists from the university’s Centre for Eye Health (CEH), involved testing 81 practising Australian optometrists using 20 computer-based case studies to determine the impact new imaging technology was having on the diagnosis of AMD. The case studies were based on records of patients who had previously been treated at the centre, half of whom had been diagnosed with AMD.

Each optometrist was given the patients’ case history, preliminary test results and a colour fundus photo, which they used to then provide a diagnosis and management plan. They could also request one additional type of image and reassess their diagnosis.

Finally, at the third stage of the experiment, the optometrists were given all of the available images for each patient and in order to make a final diagnosis.

According to study lead and CEH optometrist, Dr Angelica Ly, optometrists accurately screened for the presence or absence of macular disease in 94% of cases, however, their ability to identify the specific condition was more limited.


“These instruments are now so prolific in optometric practice that accurate interpretation of their results should form a future priority in undergraduate and postgraduate education.”
Professor Michael Kalloniatis, study corresponding author and Centre director

“Age-related macular degeneration was accurately diagnosed in 61% of cases, and this only improved by 5% using new imaging technologies,” Ly explained.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) was the most preferred imaging device selected by optometrists in the study, and this was also associated with higher diagnostic accuracy for AMD than other devices. Meanwhile, multimodal imaging was of greatest benefit in cases more often misdiagnosed using colour fundus photography alone.

Overall, the group also displayed a tendency to underestimate disease severity, and the authors concluded that the effect of improved imaging technologies would have a limited impact without additional or specific training.

“Ocular imaging technologies have the potential to reduce the incidence of preventable vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration if used properly,” study corresponding author and Centre director Professor Michael Kalloniatis said.

“These instruments are now so prolific in optometric practice that accurate interpretation of their results should form a future priority in undergraduate and postgraduate education.”

The study was published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry.

More information: The full UNSW report.



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