The application of confoca]. imaging systems to image the cornea
and the ocular lens of the living eye is a major improvement in
ophthalmic imaging. This new application of confocal imaging to the
living eye has potential for both basic research and clinical
diagnostics. The standard optical imaging systems have poor
resolution and low contrast when applied to ocular tissue. The use
of confocal systems to image the nearly transparent cornea and ocular
lens has several advantages as an imaging system. The two important
physical improvements are: (1) almost total rejection of out- offocal
plane reflected light, and (2) increased lateral resolution.
The problems of ocular imaging with standard slit lamps and specular
microscopes include: low contrast images due to contributions to the
image from out of focal plane reflections, and low resolution.
Confocal imaging systems can image living eyes. The images show
sharp, high resolution, high contrast features of submicron
structures. Examples of ocular confocal images include the
following: submicron optical sections through the various cells in
the cornea, nerve fibers, cellular processes, and images through the
nucleus of living cells comprising the cornea and the ocular lens.
The ocular lens has been imaged. The lens capsule, lens epithelial
cells, lens fibers and nuclei are readily observed. The use of realtime
confocal imaging systems in ocular medical imaging has resulted
in improved quality (resolution and contrast) of cellular images of
living eyes. Further developments require the availability of long
free working distance objectives with a high numerical aperture.
This paper demonstrates the advantages of imaging ocular tissue with
a confocal imaging system. Confocal imaging of ophthalmic structures
may become a standard clinical tool with the new developments in