Br J Ophthalmol 95:171-177 doi:10.1136/bjo.2010.182170
  • Review

Retinal optical coherence tomography: past, present and future perspectives

  1. Ursula M Schmidt-Erfurth1
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  2. 2Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ursula M Schmidt-Erfurth, Department of Ophthalmology, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, Vienna 1090, Austria;{at}
  • Accepted 19 February 2010
  • Published Online First 31 July 2010


Optical coherence tomography (OCT) has undergone substantial changes since its first use in the 1990s. Although the first generation of OCT systems heralded a new era in the non-invasive diagnostic options in ophthalmology, they did not reveal much detail. Later devices offered more information and helped in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of pathological conditions, primarily of the retina. With today's spectral-domain type models ophthalmologists are offered a comprehensive tool with the opportunity for early diagnosis and precise monitoring of patients with retinal and glaucomatous pathologies. However, as experience with these new devices grows and demands by clinicians and researchers rise, further improvements need to be addressed. Future developments in the improvement of the transverse resolution and extension of the penetration depth are to be expected. New modalities such as polarisation sensitive OCT (PS-OCT) or Doppler OCT are now in use and promise additional insights in the properties of physiological and pathological tissue. While PS-OCT reveals further detail in alterations of the retinal pigment epithelium, Doppler OCT gives additional information about blood flow measurements. With these and further new developments, OCT will continue to be an invaluable instrument in the armamentarium of modern ophthalmology.


  • Competing interests The authors' employer, the Medical University of Vienna, received funding from Carl Zeiss Meditec and Heidelberg Engineering for sponsored projects by the Department of Ophthalmology. WG received reimbursements for honoraria for presentations at meetings from Carl Zeiss Meditec and Heidelberg Engineering. US-E and CH have no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.