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Corneal topography

File:Corneal topography right ax.jpg
A corneal topogram of an eye affected by keratoconus. Blue shows the flattest areas, and red the steepest.
MeSH D019781

Corneal topography, also known as photokeratoscopy or videokeratography, is a non-invasive medical imaging technique for mapping the surface curvature of the cornea, the outer structure of the eye. Since the cornea is normally responsible for some 70% of the eye's refractive power,[1] its topography is of critical importance in determining the quality of vision and corneal health.

The three-dimensional map is therefore a valuable aid to the examining ophthalmologist or optometrist and can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of conditions; in planning cataract surgery and intraocular lens (IOL) implantation (plano or toric IOLs); in planning refractive surgery such as LASIK, and evaluating its results; or in assessing the fit of contact lenses. A development of keratoscopy, corneal topography extends the measurement range from the four points a few millimeters apart that is offered by keratometry to a grid of thousands of points covering the entire cornea. The procedure is carried out in seconds and is completely painless.


The patient is seated facing a bowl containing an illuminated pattern, most commonly a series of concentric rings. The pattern is focused on the anterior surface of the patient's cornea and reflected back to a digital camera at the centre of the bowl. The topology of the cornea is revealed by the shape taken by the reflected pattern. A computer provides the necessary analysis, typically determining the position and height of several thousand points across the cornea. The topographical map can be represented in a number of graphical formats, such as a sagittal map, which color-codes the steepness of curvature according to its dioptric value.


File:Computerised Corneal Topography.jpg
A Medmont E300 topographer

The corneal topograph owes its heritage to the Portuguese ophthalmologist Antonio Placido, who, in 1880, viewed a painted disk (Placido's disk) of alternating black and white rings reflected in the cornea.[2] The rings showed as contour lines projected on the corneal tear film. Javal L., an pioneer in the field in the 1880s incorporated the rings in his ophthalmometer and mounted an eyepiece which magnified the image of the eye. He proposed that the image should be photographed or diagrammatically represented to allow analysis of the image.[3]

In 1896, Allvar Gullstrand incorporated the disk in his ophthalmoscope, examining photographs of the cornea via a microscope and was able to manually calculate the curvature by means of a numerical algorithm. Gullstrand recognized the potential of the technique and commented that despite its laboriousness it could "give a resultant accuracy that previously could not be obtained in any other way".[4] The flat field of Placido's disk reduced the accuracy close to the corneal periphery and in the 1950s the Wesley-Jessen company made use of a curved bowl to reduce the field defects.[2] The curvature of the cornea could be determined from comparison of photographs of the rings against standardized images.

In the 1980s, photographs of the projected images became hand-digitized and then analysed by computer. Automation of the process soon followed with the image captured by a digital camera and passed directly to a computer.[5] In the 1990s, systems became commercially available from a number of suppliers. The first completely automatic system was the Corneal Modeling System (CMS-1) developed by Computed Anatomy, Inc. in New York City, under the direction of Martin Gersten and a group of surgeons at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. The price of the early instruments was initially very high ($75,000), largely confining their use to research establishments. However, prices have fallen substantially over time, bringing corneal topographs into the budget of smaller clinics and increasing the number of patients that can be examined.


Computerized corneal topography could be employed for diagnostics. It is, in fact, one of the exams the patients have to undergo prior to the Cross-linking and the Mini Asymmetric Radial Keratotomy (M.A.R.K.). For example, the KISA% index (keratometry, I-S, skew percentage, astigmatism) is used to arrive at a diagnosis of keratoconus, to screen the suspect keratoconic patients and analyse the degree of corneal steepness changes in healthy relatives.[6]

Nevertheless, topography in itself is a measurement of the first reflective surface of the eye (tearfilm) and is not giving any additional information beside the shape of this layer expressed in curvature. keratoconus in itself is a pattern of the entire cornea, therefore every measurement just focusing on one layer, might not be enough for a state of the art diagnosis. Especially early cases of keratoconus might be missed by a plain topographic measurement, which is critical if refractive surgery is being considered.[7] The measurement is also sensitive to unstable tearfilms. Also, the alignment of the measurement can be difficult, especially with eyes that have Keratoconus, a significant astigmatism, or sometimes after refractive surgery.

Programs used in corneal topography machines

File:Iris of eye overlain with 3 different measurments.jpg
The corneal topographic astigmatism (CorT) is closer in magnitude and orientation to the manifest refractive cylinder (R) than is simulated keratometry (SimK), the latter of which has been the standard for 25 years.

Corneal topography machines contain internal software that helps analyze the resulting measurements. Most corneal topography machines calculate what is called SimK, or simulated keratometry, based on the analysis of a Placido ring generated by the corneal topographer.[8] A SimK value is an automated quantitative version of manual keratometry—the traditional qualitative eye test where an optometrist or ophthalmologist rotates lenses of various powers in front of the eye, asking "Which is better, this or this?" Corneal topography machines may also provide values related to wavefront analysis and paraxial curvature matching. These tests can reveal ocular astigmatism, myopia, and hyperopia.

Many corneal topography machines interface with a vector analysis algorithm called iASSORT, which is based on the ASSORT vector analysis program that many ophthalmologists use to help plan and analyze the results of refractive, corneal, and cataract/intraocular lens (IOL) surgical procedures.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] Talks are under way with many corneal topography companies to include the iASSORT CorT vector analysis calculation, which quantifies corneal topographic astigmatism.[19][20][21] In one study, CorT proved to be significantly more reliable (less variable with smaller standard deviation) than manual keratometry, SimK, corneal wavefront, or paraxial curvature matching. The magnitude of ocular residual astigmatism (ORA) using CorT was the least and its magnitude was closest to refractive cylinder than all other parameters examined[20] (see figure).

The variability of SimK values has been a point of frustration in the field, most recently in regard to its meridian for the alignment of toric IOLs. The CorT value will likely replace the SimK value, which has been the standard measure since the inception of Placido ring topography.[8][20][21] Unlike SimK, the CorT value uses measurements from the entire cornea and takes a vectorial average of Placido ring powers across the whole cornea (and each of its hemidivisions) after determining the most effective set of complete rings.[19]


  1. ^ Pavan-Langston, Deborah (2007). Manual of Ocular Diagnosis and Therapy. Hagerstown, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 405. ISBN 0-7817-6512-9. 
  2. ^ a b Goss D, Gerstman D (2000). "The Optical Science Underlying the Quantification of Corneal Contour:" (PDF). Indiana Journal of Optometry 3 (1). 
  3. ^ Corneal Topography measuring and modifying the cornea - Schanzlin 1992, page 4-5
  4. ^ Gullstrand A (1909). "Procedure of rays in the eye". Helmholtz's Treatise on Physiological Optics. 
  5. ^ Busin M, Wilmanns I, Spitznas M. Automated corneal topography: computerized analysis of photokeratoscope images. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1989;227(3):230-6. PMID 2737484
  6. ^ Rabinowitz YS, Rasheed K (October 1999). "KISA% index: a quantitative videokeratography algorithm embodying minimal topographic criteria for diagnosing keratoconus". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 25 (10): 1327–35. PMID 10511930. doi:10.1016/S0886-3350(99)00195-9. 
  7. ^ "Placido-based corneal topography outdated, limited in scope | Ophthalmology". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  8. ^ a b "Getting more from topography". EuroTimes India. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  9. ^ ASSORT website
  10. ^ Alpins, N; Stamatelatos, G (2008). "Clinical outcomes of laser in situ keratomileusis using combined topography and refractive wavefront treatments for myopic astigmatism". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 34 (8): 1250–9. PMID 18655973. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2008.03.028. 
  11. ^ Alpins, N; Stamatelatos, G (2007). "Customized photoastigmatic refractive keratectomy using combined topographic and refractive data for myopia and astigmatism in eyes with forme fruste and mild keratoconus". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 33 (4): 591–602. PMID 17397730. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2006.12.014. 
  12. ^ Alpins, NA; Tabin, GC; Adams, LM; Aldred, GF; Kent, DG; Taylor, HR (1998). "Refractive versus corneal changes after photorefracive keratectomy for astigmatism". Journal of refractive surgery 14 (4): 386–96. PMID 9699162. 
  13. ^ Alió, JL; Piñero, DP; Tomás, J; Plaza, AB (2011). "Vector analysis of astigmatic changes after cataract surgery with implantation of a new toric multifocal intraocular lens". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 37 (7): 1217–29. PMID 21700102. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2010.12.064. 
  14. ^ Alió, JL; Piñero, DP; Tomás, J; Alesón, A (2011). "Vector analysis of astigmatic changes after cataract surgery with toric intraocular lens implantation". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 37 (6): 1038–49. PMID 21596246. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2010.12.053. 
  15. ^ Alió, Jorge L.; Agdeppa, Ma. Cecilia C.; Pongo, Vanessa C.; El Kady, Bassam (2010). "Microincision cataract surgery with toric intraocular lens implantation for correcting moderate and high astigmatism: Pilot study". Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery 36: 44. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2009.07.043. 
  16. ^ PPiñero, DP; Alió, JL; Teus, MA; Barraquer, RI; Michael, R; Jiménez, R (2010). "Modification and refinement of astigmatism in keratoconic eyes with intrastromal corneal ring segments". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 36 (9): 1562–72. PMID 20692571. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2010.04.029. 
  17. ^ Galway, G; Drury, B; Cronin, BG; Bourke, RD (2010). "A comparison of induced astigmatism in 20- vs 25-gauge vitrectomy procedures". Eye 24 (2): 315–7. PMID 19390563. doi:10.1038/eye.2009.81. 
  18. ^ Fraenkel, GE; Webber, SK; Sutton, GL; Lawless, MA; Rogers, CM (1999). "Toric laser in situ keratomileusis for myopic astigmatism using an ablatable mask". Journal of refractive surgery 15 (2): 111–7. PMID 10202704. 
  19. ^ a b Ngoei, Enette (February 2013). "Refractive editor's corner of the world: CorT'ing accuracy". EyeWorld. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c Alpins, Noel; JK Ong; G Stamatelatos (2012). "New method of quantifying corneal topographic astigmatism that corresponds with manifest refractive cylinder". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 38 (11): 1978–1988. PMID 23010252. doi:10.1016/j.jcrs.2012.07.026. 
  21. ^ a b Biro, A (25 November 2012). "New measurement method quantifies corneal astigmatism". Ocular surgery news. US edition. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 

Further reading

  • Corbett M, O'Brart D, Rosen E and Stevenson R (1999). Corneal Topography. London: BMJ Books. p. 230. ISBN 0-7279-1226-7. 

Gormley, D., Gersten, M., Koplin, R.S., Lubkin, V.: Corneal Modeling. Cornea 7(1)30-35, 1988