A confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope (cSLO) was used to examine the effects of confocal optics on the image of the human fundus in vivo. Patients from a retinal clinic and a glaucoma clinic were examined using the cSLO in the confocal mode. A degree of optical sectioning could be achieved, and the results agree with a best axial resolution of 300 microns measured in a model eye. The main advantage of using a confocal system was found to be the improved contrast of the images. This improved the resolution of structures such as the lamina cribrosa and optic disc drusen which are seen in low contrast in conventional images. The improved contrast of the confocal images is partly achieved by excluding light which has been scattered within the plane of focus. Structures which multiply scatter light will become less visible with confocal optics and hard exudates were found to be an example of such a structure. The cSLO and the fundus camera are seen as complementary instruments rather than as alternatives for imaging the fundus. It is envisaged that confocal imaging will enable details of the fundus to be revealed which are at present not seen in conventional images.
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