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Comparability of Tele-ophthalmological and Conventional Binocular Ophthalmoscopy

Lipke K., Gümbel H. O. C.,
Bundeswehrkrankenhaus Ulm, Abteilung IV - Augenheilkunde (Ulm)

Purpose: Because of the rapid progress in the development of digital imaging, telemedicine has become a useful and practicable method for medical consultations. Ophthalmology is a specialty that relies heavily on images for diagnosis. Therefore it is not surprising that telemedical ophthalmology has been widely initiated. On the one hand high quality pictures are often not suitable for data transfer, but on the other it is not known what kind of image compression is appropriate for visually dependent diagnosis in telemedical ophthalmology. The aim of this study is to analyse the influence of image compression to the quality of telemedical diagnosis. The results shall help to standardize digital image capturing, storing and data transfer in ophthalmological telemedicine.
Method: Digital images of the retina were captured in now 30 patient with a fundus camera and stored as TIFF (Tagged Interchange File Format) high quality pictures with a resolution of 1324x1024 pixels and with a resolution of 800x600 pixels as TIFF and JPEG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) of different compressions. Digital images were interpreted by a well trained ophthalmologist. The results were compared with those of conventional examination made by another also well-trained ophthalmologist.
Results: There was an excellent correlation between the diagnoses made by analysing the digital images and those made by the ophthalmologist directly. Moreover there was no advantage in analysing the high quality pictures in comparison to the compressed files with less size.
Conclusions: The results of this study emphasize the suitability of telemedicine in ophthalmology. Moreover compressed digital images of small size are suitable for fast data transfer and reliable diagnosis.