Assessing blood vessel perfusion and vital signs through retinal imaging photoplethysmography

One solution to the global challenge of increasing ocular disease is a cost-effective technique for rapid screening and assessment. Current ophthalmic imaging techniques, e.g. scanning and ocular blood flow systems, are expensive, complex to operate and utilize invasive contrast agents during assessment. The work presented here demonstrates a simple retinal imaging photoplethysmography (iPPG) system with the potential to provide screening, diagnosis, monitoring and assessment that is non-invasive, painless and radiationless. Time series of individual retinal blood vessel images, captured with an eye fundus camera, are processed using standard filtering, amplitude demodulation and principle component analysis (PCA) methods to determine the values of the heart rate (HR) and respiration rate (RR), which are in compliance with simultaneously obtained measurements using commercial pulse oximetry. It also seems possible that some information on the dynamic changes in oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) in a retinal blood vessel may also be obtained. As a consequence, the retinal iPPG modality system demonstrates a potential avenue for rapid ophthalmic screening, and even early diagnosis, against ocular disease without the need for fluorescent or contrast agents.