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Nathan Efron, Nicola Pritchard, Dimitrios Vagenas, Cirous Dehghani, Sangeetha Srinivassan, Anthony Russell, Rayaz Malik, Katie Edwards; Non-invasive techniques for imaging in-vivo human corneal sub basal nerve mapping and migration rate in diabetic neuropathy. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):2449.
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Corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) is a rapid non-invasive ophthalmic technique, which has been shown to diagnose and stratify the severity of diabetic neuropathy. Current morphometric techniques assess individual static images of the subbasal nerve plexus; this work explores the potential for non-invasive assessment of the wide-field morphology and dynamic changes of this plexus in vivo.
In this pilot study, laser scanning CCM was used to acquire maps (using a dynamic fixation target and semi-automated tiling software) of the central corneal sub-basal nerve plexus in 4 diabetic patients with and 6 without neuropathy and in 2 control subjects. Nerve migration was measured in an additional 7 diabetic patients with neuropathy, 4 without neuropathy and in 2 control subjects by repeating a modified version of the mapping procedure within 2-8 weeks, thus facilitating re-identification of distinctive nerve landmarks in the 2 montages. The rate of nerve movement was determined from these data and normalised to a weekly rate (µm/week), using customised software.
Wide-field corneal nerve fibre length correlated significantly with the Neuropathy Disability Score (r = -0.58, p < 0.05), vibration perception (r = -0.66, p < 0.05) and peroneal conduction velocity (r = 0.67, p < 0.05). Central corneal nerve fibre length did not correlate with any of these measures of neuropathy (p > 0.05 for all). The rate of corneal nerve migration was 14.3 ± 1.1 µm/week in diabetic patients with neuropathy, 19.7 ± 13.3µm/week in diabetic patients without neuropathy, and 24.4 ± 9.8µm/week in control subjects; however, these differences were not significantly different (p = 0.543).
Our data demonstrate that it is possible to capture wide-field images of the corneal nerve plexus, and to quantify the rate of corneal nerve migration by repeating this procedure over a number of weeks. Further studies on larger sample sizes are required to determine the utility of this approach for the diagnosis and monitoring of diabetic neuropathy.
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