Diurnal variations in tear film break-up time determined in healthy subjects by software-assisted interpretation of tear film video recordings

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This study was designed to examine diurnal variations in tear film break-up time (BUT) and maximum blink interval (MBI) and to assess two different ways of calculating these variables on video recordings of the BUT test interpreted with the help of especially designed software. The repeatability of interpreting BUT video recordings was also addressed.


Twenty-six healthy young adults were enrolled after ruling out dry eye according to a battery of tests (ocular surface disease index, McMonnies questionnaire, Schirmer test, phenol red test and corneal staining). BUT and maximum blink interval were determined on video-recordings of the BUT test conducted over a day in four sessions (9.30 am, 12.30 pm, 3.30 pm and 6.30 pm). In each session, the test was repeated three times to give three videos in which three BUT and MBI values were obtained by a masked observer. BUT and MBI were determined by averaging the three measurements and by averaging only the two closest measurements. Finally, two further experienced observers re-examined the videos to assess the repeatability of the BUT measurements made.


No diurnal variation in BUT was observed regardless of whether three or two video measurements were averaged. Significant correlation was detected between BUT and MBI. Inter-observer repeatability was better when BUT times were no longer than 15 seconds.


Tear film BUT was not influenced by the time of day and moderate to strong correlation with MBI was observed in all four sessions. The software-assisted method proved useful and identified the need to clarify the BUT end-point and to limit the test to 15 seconds to improve observer repeatability.

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