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Quality of vision depends on the structure and function of individual eye components; effective treatment requires an accurate picture of each patient’s unique set of characteristics. Ophthalmic photographers use simple hand-held cameras with specialized lenses to document pathology of the face, eyelids, eye muscles and pupils. Sophisticated slit-lamp cameras with magnifying capabilities make it possible to record abnormalities on the surface and the interior of the eye.

In 1992, the Eye Institute became the first Canadian facility to acquire digitized equipment and software that make it possible to examine even the tiniest structures (e.g.: cells and blood vessels). Following an intravenous injection, fluorescein (a yellow vegetable dye) travels to blood vessels in the eye, where a special camera firing in a rapid sequence creates detailed images of the retina, layer by layer. A second procedure, known as indocyanine green angiography, uses an infrared light to create images that reveal microscopic abnormalities in blood flow.

This equipment significantly increased the Institute’s capacity to perform angiograms while reducing the need for photographic film and processing. With the images stored on optical discs, ophthalmologists can simulate various reconstructions in order to determine the best treatment approach. In many instances, the computational power of the equipment makes it possible to diagnose conditions and begin treatment in the same session.

In addition, the magnification capabilities of these cameras and computer programs have made it possible to photograph and individually assess the cells on the rear surface of the cornea, which are responsible for visual clarity. This information is extremely useful in intraocular surgery and the treatment of cataracts, and for evaluating corneal grafts and donor tissue.