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In vivo confocal microscopy of the human cornea
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  1. I Jalbert1,
  2. F Stapleton1,
  3. E Papas1,
  4. D F Sweeney1,
  5. M Coroneo2
  1. 1Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, University of New South Wales, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: Isabelle Jalbert, CRC for Eye Research and Technology, The University of New South Wales, UNSW Sydney 2052, Australia; i.jalbert{at}crcert.unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Aims: To describe the optics of in vivo confocal microscopy, its advantages over previous methods, and to summarise the literature that arose from its use for the observation of the human cornea. A critical review of the clinical usefulness of this new technology for the corneal examination is undertaken.

Methods: Confocal microscopes obtain increased resolution by limiting the illumination and observation systems to a single point. Rapid scanning is used to reconstruct a full field of view and allows for “real time” viewing.

Results: Coronal sections of the in situ epithelium, Bowman’s membrane, stroma, and endothelium can be visualised at a resolution of 1–2 μm. A backscattered light intensity curve allows objective measurements of sublayer thickness and corneal haze to be taken. In vivo confocal microscopy is therefore particularly useful in the areas of infective keratitis, corneal dystrophies, refractive surgery, and contact lens wear, where it aids in differential diagnosis and detection of subtle short and long term changes. Real time endothelial cell assessment can also be performed.

Conclusion: Because of their ability to visualise living tissue at cellular levels, confocal microscopes have proved useful additions to the current clinical tools.

  • confocal microscopy
  • cornea
  • refractive surgery
  • keratitis
  • contact lens wear
  • CMTF, confocal microscopy through focusing
  • CORs, coefficients of repeatability
  • LASEK, laser epithelial keratomileusis
  • LASIK, laser in situ keratomileusis
  • PRK, photorefractive keratectomy
  • SSCM, slit scanning confocal microscope
  • TSCM, tandem scanning confocal microscope
  • confocal microscopy
  • cornea
  • refractive surgery
  • keratitis
  • contact lens wear
  • CMTF, confocal microscopy through focusing
  • CORs, coefficients of repeatability
  • LASEK, laser epithelial keratomileusis
  • LASIK, laser in situ keratomileusis
  • PRK, photorefractive keratectomy
  • SSCM, slit scanning confocal microscope
  • TSCM, tandem scanning confocal microscope
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