We explored, both numerically and experimentally, whether OCT can be a good candidate to accurately measure retinal oxygen metabolism. We first used statistical methods to numerically simulate photon transport in the retina to mimic OCT working under different spectral ranges. Then we analyze accuracy of OCT oximetry subject to parameter variations such as vessel size, pigmentation, and oxygenation. We further developed an experimental OCT system based on the spectral range identified by our simulation work. We applied the newly developed OCT to measure both retinal hemoglobin oxygen saturation (sO2) and retinal retinal flow. After obtaining the retinal sO2 and blood velocity, we further measured retinal vessel diameter and calculated the retinal oxygen metabolism rate (MRO2). To test the capability of our OCT, we imaged wild-type Long-Evans rats ventilated with both normal air and air mixtures with various oxygen concentrations.
Our simulation suggested that OCT working within visible spectral range is able to provide accurate measurement of retinal MRO2 using inverse Fourier transform spectral reconstruction. We called this newly developed technology vis-OCT, and showed that vis-OCT was able to measure the sO2 value in every single major retinal vessel around the optical disk as well as in micro retinal vessels. When breathing normal air, the averaged sO2 in arterial and venous blood in Long-Evans rats was measured to be 95% and 72%, respectively. When we challenge the rats using air mixtures with different oxygen concentrations, vis-OCT measurement followed analytical models of retinal oxygen diffusion and pulse oximeter well.