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Funding for electroretinogram machine could halve waiting time

Max Thompson electroretinogram machine Queensland Eye Institute

Funds raised from a campaign commencing in Queensland today will help purchase an additional electroretinogram machine that allows ophthalmologists to see conditions that other tests do not.

Queensland Eye Institute (QEI) is raising funds to purchase the state-of-the-art diagnostic tool, used to identify conditions including Leber congenital amaruosis (LCA), retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease and cone dystrophy.

In most cases, patients suffering from these conditions do not go blind immediately, meaning that early intervention strategies can be life-changing and sight-saving.

QEI executive director and CEO Professor Mark Radford said only visual electrophysiological tests allowed eyecare practitioners to clearly delineate which layers of the retina aren’t functional and hence provide a definite diagnosis.

“We are the only service in Queensland who provide comprehensive electrophysiology testing for all ages, but demand is high and wait lists are long. Early diagnosis can mean the difference between total blindness or life-long vision for many people,” he said.

QEI currently receives referrals for patients from across Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern NSW. It takes approximately 3.5 hours for each test, meaning that only two patients can be seen each day, equating to less than 400 tests each year.

“Another electroretinogram for Queensland means we halve the waiting time and potentially double the number of people’s sight that we save,” Radford said.

Max Day campaign 

QEI dubbed today “Max Day” to mark the launch of the campaign and highlight the value of the electroretinogram machine.

Max has had glasses since he was 12-weeks-old.

Fifteen-month-old Max Thomson is one patient who has benefitted from the technology that the electrodiagnostic unit at QEI offers. His mother, Alanna, noticed he wasn’t smiling and didn’t appear curious about the world around him.

“At Max’s 12-week check-up I told my GP what I had noticed. Two days later we saw a paediatrician. Two hours after that and we were being seen by an ophthalmologist,” Alanna said.

After electroretinogram testing at QEI, Max was diagnosed with suspected LCA. Affecting only about two in every 100 000 babies, the disease accounts for approximately 20% of children who attend schools for the blind, according to QEI.

“Electroretinogram is an important means to diagnose LCA and it’s completely non-invasive. As LCA symptoms are similar to many other types of eye conditions, as well as syndromes affecting other parts of the body (such as the kidneys), LCA diagnosis also meant that Max was spared further invasive tests,” QEI explained.

The psychological impact was also significant.

“Having a diagnosis was a huge relief,” Alanna said. “For us it also meant that we could take the next step and have genetic testing done to see if Max had the type of LCA for which there is currently a treatment.”

Although this was not the case for Max, LCA diagnosis allowed for early intervention to treat Max’s condition and improve his quality of life.

“Max has had glasses since he was 12-weeks-old. We won’t know if he has any vision at all until he is old enough to tell us. But, if he does have even the slightest amount, we want him to be able to see as much as he can, and learn as much as he can, before his vision totally deteriorates,” Alanna said.

Click here to donate to QEI’s campaign to purchase an additional electroretinogram machine.

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