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Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an important diagnostic tool in ophthalmology. The London Clinic Eye Centre has the latest, most sophisticated optical coherence tomography system, the Heidelberg Spectralis.

The major application of optical coherence tomography is for diagnosing and monitoring retinal disease. It is completely non-invasive; there are no probes or needles and examination by an OCT machine is not at all uncomfortable.

Optical coherence tomography produces detailed cross-sectional maps of the retina, which shows if there are areas of swelling.
Retinal diseases that commonly cause retinal swelling include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy, which leads to diabetic macular oedema – swelling of the retina at the macula. This crucial point on the retina has the highest concentration of photoreceptor cells and gives us our most detailed focus and vision.
  • Retinal vein occlusion, which also leads to macular oedema.
  • Age-related macular degeneration, particularly the wet form, in which abnormal blood vessels start to invade the retina.

Optical coherence tomography can also help diagnose:

  • Macular swelling and oedema due to any other underlying cause.
  • Damage to the optic nerve, such as what might occur in advanced glaucoma.
  • The development of choroidal neovascularisation (abnormal new blood vessels) or pre-retinal membranes (abnormal cell layers in front of the retina).
  • The appearance of holes in the macula.

If you have optical coherence tomography at the eye centre, this is always done in close association with your consultant, who will have very fast access to the results, and will then be able to move quickly to advise you of your treatment options.

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