Retinal Damage Common Among Urban African-Americans With Diabetes Easily Screened For Via Telemedicine

October 28, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO -- Transmitting electronic ocular images to retinal specialists for assessment means persons with diabetes may be screened for eye damage during routine office visits to their endocrinologist or primary care physicians, reports Antonio Capone, M.D., associate professor of Ophthalmology (retinal division), Emory University School of Medicine, at this week's American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Telemedicine negates the need for patients to physically visit retinal specialists -- and visa versa -- to be screened for diabetic retinopathy, a potentially blinding disease common to persons with diabetes.

"Urban African-Americans with diabetes have a high prevalence of retinal damage (19 percent of eyes), necessitating effective screening procedures," reports Antonio Capone, M.D., associate professor of Ophthalmology (retina division) at the Emory University School of Medicine. He and his Emory Eye Center and Emory Department of Medicine colleagues conclude after assessing 87 patients (171 eyes) that, "Evaluation via telemedicine technology was easily integrated into routine diabetes visits, and could be implemented at distant locations, obviating the need for (ocular image) reading on-site."

The researchers report that "(Transmitted) Image quality was rated as good to excellent in 78 percent; only two percent were uninterpretable. Diabetic maculopathy was diagnosed in 14 percent of imaged eyes; six percent had definite laser-eligible disease, while clinically significant macular edema was strongly suggested in an additional eight percent. Diabetic retinopathy was diagnosed in 13 percent of imaged eyes -- two percent with untreated proliferative disease... Retinal damage was found even in the eyes of patients with short duration of known diabetes..."

Emory University Health Sciences Center

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