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Trained graders could be used to monitor patients with stable diabetic eye disease

A UK study found that trained graders were able to accurately assess whether eye disease had reactivated

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A UK study has investigated the effectiveness of using trained ophthalmic graders rather than ophthalmologists to monitor stable diabetic eye disease patients.

The Emerald (effectiveness of multimodal imaging for the evaluation of retinal oedema and new vessels in diabetic retinopathy) diagnostic accuracy study involved trained graders monitoring patients who have previously been treated for complications of diabetic eye disease and are now stable.

The research revealed that the ophthalmic grader pathway was found to achieve satisfactory results when compared to standard care where an ophthalmologist would evaluate patients in a clinic.

This new pathway could also save £1390 per 100 patients, as well as freeing up ophthalmologists’ time.

Professor Noemi Lois, of Queen’s University Belfast, noted that currently ophthalmologists need to evaluate all patients – even those who are stable after treatment.

“NHS hospitals eye units are under significant pressure given the extremely high number of people that need to be examined and treated and given the insufficient number of ophthalmologists in the UK,” she said.

“Emerald showed trained ophthalmic graders are able to determine whether patients with diabetic macular oedema or proliferative diabetic retinopathy previously successfully treated remain stable or if the disease has reactivated,” Lois added.

Consultant ophthalmologist at Bristol Eye Hospital, Clare Bailey, shared that the study has increased the number of patients who are able to be seen through the imaging/grading pathway.

“This has hugely increased our follow-up capacity, whilst allowing ophthalmologists' time to be directed to the people with diabetic retinopathy who need treatment or further assessment. This has helped us to deal with the capacity pressures as a result of COVID-19 as well as the longer-term capacity demands due to the increasing prevalence of diabetic retinopathy,” she said.

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