Purpose To assess the effect of applying a protocol for image selection and the number of images required for adequate quantification of corneal nerve pathology using in vivo corneal confocal microscopy (IVCCM). Methods IVCCM was performed in 35 participants by a single examiner. For each participant, 4 observers used a standardized protocol to select 6 central corneal nerve images to assess the inter-observer variability. Furthermore, images were selected by a single observer on two occasions to assess intra-observer variability and the effect of sample size was assessed by comparing 6 with 12 images. Corneal nerve fiber density (CNFD), branch density (CNBD) and length (CNFL) were quantified using fully automated software. The data were compared using the intra class correlation coefficient (ICC) and Bland-Altman agreement plots for all experiments. Results The ICC values for CNFD, CNBD and CNFL were 0.93 (P<0.0001), 0.96 (P<0.0001) and 0.95 (P<0.0001) for inter-observer variability and 0.95 (P<0.0001), 0.97 (P<0.001) and 0.97 (P<0.0001) for intra-observer variability. For sample size variability, ICC values were 0.94 (P<0.0001), 0.95 (P<0.0001), and 0.96 (P<0.0001) for CNFD, CNBD and CNFL. Bland-Altman plots showed excellent agreement for all parameters. Conclusions This study shows that implementing a standardized protocol to select IVCCM images results in high intra and inter-observer reproducibility for all corneal nerve parameters and 6 images are adequate for analysis. IVCCM could therefore be deployed in large multicenter clinical trials with confidence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)