Comparison of Noncontact Specular and Confocal Microscopy for Evaluation of Corneal Endothelium

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To compare endothelial cell analysis obtained by noncontact specular and confocal microscopy, using the Konan NSP-9900 and Nidek ConfoScan4 systems, respectively.


Three groups including 70 healthy eyes, 49 eyes with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD), and 78 eyes with glaucoma were examined with both the Konan NSP-9900 specular microscope and the Nidek ConfocScan4 confocal microscope. Certified graders at the Doheny Image Reading Center compared corneal endothelial images from both instruments side by side to assess image quality. Endothelial cell density (ECD) measurements were calculated and compared using three different modalities: (1) each instrument's fully automated analysis; (2) each instrument's semiautomatic analysis with grader input; and (3) manual grading methods by certified grader.


All normal eyes yielded gradable endothelial images, and most but not all glaucomatous eyes yielded images with high enough image quality to allow grading. In addition, in corneas with severe FECD, poor image quality precluded ECD grading by specular microscopy in 20 eyes (40.8%) but in only 4 (8.2%) confocal images from the same eyes. For the gradable images, the ECD values obtained using the manual grading method from either device were comparable with no statistically significant difference (P>0.05) between specular and confocal devices. Machine-generated ECD values were significantly different from manual results, measuring greater in all cases with specular microscopy. Machine-generated ECD values from confocal microscopy also differed significantly from manual determinations, but not in a consistent direction. Semiautomatic methods for both instruments obtained clinically acceptable ECD values.


Automatic machine-generated ECD measurements differed significantly from manual assessments of corneal endothelium by both specular and confocal microscopy, suggesting that automated results should be used with caution. But ECD values derived manually were comparable between the two devices in both normal and glaucomatous eyes, suggesting that manually graded images from the two instruments can be used interchangeably for reliable ECD measurements. Because of a higher proportion of gradable images, confocal microscopy may be superior to specular microscopy for ECD measurements in FECD.

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