Quantification of Refractive Error: Comparison of Autorefractor and Focometer

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The advantages of a focometer (FOCOMETER) over other methods of refraction for use in developing countries are that it is lightweight, compact, relatively inexpensive, fairly quick, and easy to use with minimal training. This clinical trial compared the repeatability, validity, and ease of use of the focometer with an autorefractor.


The refractive status of the right eye of 80 participants was determined with an autorefractor (Canon RK3). Three measurements were also taken with the focometer.


The spherical equivalent (M) of the focometer was 0.25 D more positive than the autorefractor (p < 0.001) and 84% of measurements were within 0.75 D of the autorefractor. The autorefractor detected astigmatism in 91% (73) of the eyes, whereas the focometer identified only 32% (26). The design of the clock target restricts cylinder axis accuracy to the nearest 15°. There was evidence of a learning effect for the focometer: the second and third measurements were more repeatable in the untrained group. There were no differences between the mean (1.03 ± 2.28) and third focometer (–1.05 ± 2.32) measurements (p = 0.34). However, using the third focometer measurement, 94% of participants had visual acuities of at least 6/12−2.


This study highlighted the focometer’s restricted power range, inaccuracy of astigmatism and axis determination, and dependence on subject understanding and compliance. Therefore, in most clinical settings, the focometer would not be adequate for quantifying refractive error, but the focometer spherical equivalent was within acceptable limits of the autorefractor, and the visual acuity with lenses determined by the focometer indicates its potential usefulness in public health settings, especially where only spherical ready-made spectacles are dispensed. There may be more cost-effective ways to determine refractive error in these circumstances. A potentially important enhancement in focometer methodology that improves its ease of use was identified: use only the third measurement for each eye.

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