Technology Trends: Flat touch monitors help diagnose diabetic retinopathy

With diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common side effects of diabetes, blood vessels in the eye leak or become obstructed as a consequence of years of elevated blood sugar levels.

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With diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common side effects of diabetes, blood vessels in the eye leak or become obstructed as a consequence of years of elevated blood sugar levels. If untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 50% of diabetics do not receive the recommended annual screening for retinopathy. For ophthalmologist and surgeon Greg Mincey, M.D., these trends were very disturbing.

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PHOTO. To capture retinal images needed to evaluate a patient's vision and susceptibility to diabetic retinopathy, Retinal Imaging Systems RIS system uses a CR-5 retinal camera from Canon, a PC-based FlashPoint capture card from Integral Technologies, and a Profile Flat Panel Touch Monitor from MicroTouch Systems.

"I treat this problem with laser surgery," he says. "And it troubled me that I was seeing a lot of patients with late-stage retinopathy that could have been caught earlier. I needed a way to screen diabetics for the early signs and stages of the disease," he says. To accomplish this, Mincey formed Retinal Imaging Systems (RIS; Southern Pines, NC) to build a machine for capturing retinal images needed to evaluate a patient's vision and susceptibility to the disease.

Because he found that many diabetics were too busy or reluctant to visit an ophthalmologist's office or clinic to receive their evaluation, Mincey decided to bring the screening to the patients by creating a portable, touch-activated screening machine that can be operated by doctors, nurses, and trained technicians.

Built around the Profile Flat Panel Touch Monitor from MicroTouch Systems (Methuen, MA), the RIS device uses a CR-5 retinal camera from Canon (Lake Success, NY) that's been converted to capture digital images in JPEG form using custom software and a PC-based FlashPoint capture card from Integral Technologies (Indianapolis, IN).

Running under Windows NT on an industrial-mounted, ruggedized PC from Advantech (Sunnyvale, CA), the system displays images on a 15-in. Profile flat-panel touch monitor with a TouchTek5 (five-wire) resistive touch screen from MicroTouch. Such resistive touch screens register touch input from a finger, gloved hand, or stylus.

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