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Ophthalmologic Techniques That Evaluate the Posterior Segment for Glaucoma

Policy Number: MP-465

 

Latest Review Date: April 2019

Category: Medical                                                                 

Policy Grade: C

Description of Procedure or Service:

Several techniques have been developed to measure the thickness of the optic nerve/retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) as a method to diagnose and monitor glaucoma. Measurement of ocular blood flow is also being evaluated as a diagnostic and management tool for glaucoma.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is characterized by degeneration of the optic nerve (optic disc). Elevated intraocular pressure has long been thought to be the primary etiology, but the relationship between intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage varies among patients, suggesting a multifactorial origin. For example, some patients with clearly elevated intraocular pressure will show no optic nerve damage, while other patients with marginal or no pressure elevation will, nonetheless, show optic nerve damage. The association between glaucoma and other vascular disorders such as diabetes or hypertension suggests vascular factors may play a role in glaucoma. Specifically, it has been hypothesized that reductions in blood flow to the optic nerve may contribute to the visual field defects associated with glaucoma.

Diagnosis and Management

A comprehensive ophthalmologic exam is required for the diagnosis of glaucoma, but no single test is adequate to establish diagnosis. A comprehensive ophthalmologic examination includes assessment of the optic nerve, evaluation of visual fields, and measurement of ocular pressure. The presence of characteristic changes in the optic nerve or abnormalities in visual field, together with increased IOP, is sufficient for a definitive diagnosis. However, some patients will show ophthalmologic evidence of glaucoma with normal IOPs. These cases of normal tension glaucoma are considered to be a type of primary open-angle glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma is another type of glaucoma associated with an increase in IOP. The increased IOP in angle-closure glaucoma arises from a reduction in aqueous outflow from the eye due to a closed angle in the anterior chamber. Diagnosis of angle-closure glaucoma is detailed in MP 311 Optical Coherence Tomography of the Anterior Eye Segment.

Conventional management of patients with glaucoma principally involves drug therapy to control elevated IOPs, and serial evaluation of the optic nerve, to follow disease progression. Standard methods of evaluation include careful direct examination of the optic nerve using ophthalmoscopy or stereophotography, or evaluation of visual fields. There is interest in developing more objective, reproducible techniques both to document optic nerve damage and to detect early changes in the optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) before the development of permanent visual field deficits. Specifically, evaluating changes in RNFL thickness has been investigated as a technique to diagnose and monitor glaucoma. However, IOP reduction is not effective in decreasing disease progression in a significant number of patients, and in patients with normal tension glaucoma, there is never an increase in IOP. It has been proposed that vascular dysregulation is a significant cause of damage to the RNFL, and there is interest in measuring ocular blood flow as both a diagnostic and a management tool for glaucoma. Changes in blood flow to the retina and choroid may be particularly relevant for diagnosis and treatment of normal tension glaucoma. A variety of techniques have been developed, as described below. (Note: This evidence review only addresses techniques related to the evaluation of the optic nerve, RNFL, or blood flow to the retina and choroid in patients with glaucoma.)

Techniques to Evaluate the Optic Nerve/Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer

Confocal Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscopy

Confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (CSLO) is an image acquisition technique intended to improve the quality of the eye examination compared with standard ophthalmologic examination. A laser is scanned across the retina along with a detector system. Only a single spot on the retina is illuminated at any time, resulting in a high-contrast image of great reproducibility that can be used to estimate RNFL thickness. In addition, this technique does not require maximal mydriasis, which may be problematic in patients with glaucoma. The Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph is a commonly used technology.

Scanning Laser Polarimetry

The RNFL is birefringent (or biorefractive), meaning that it causes a change in the state of polarization of a laser beam as it passes. A 780-nm diode laser is used to illuminate the optic nerve. The polarization state of the light emerging from the eye is then evaluated and correlated with RNFL thickness. Unlike CSLO, scanning laser polarimetry (SLP) can directly measure the thickness of the RNFL. GDx is a common SLP device. GDx contains a normative database and statistical software package that compare scan results with age-matched normal subjects of the same ethnic origin. The advantages of this system are that images can be obtained without pupil dilation and evaluation can be completed in 10 minutes. Current instruments have added enhanced and variable corneal compensation technology to account for corneal polarization.

Optical Coherence Tomography

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) uses near-infrared light to provide direct cross-sectional measurement of the RNFL. The principles employed are similar to those used in B-mode ultrasound except light, not sound, is used to produce the 2-dimensional images. The light source can be directed into the eye through a conventional slit-lamp biomicroscope and focused onto the retina through a typical 78-diopter lens. This system requires dilation of the patient’s pupil. OCT analysis software is being developed to include optic nerve head parameters with spectral domain OCT, analysis of macular parameters, and hemodynamic parameters with Doppler OCT and OCT angiography..

Pulsatile Ocular Blood Flow

The pulsatile variation in ocular pressure results from the flow of blood into the eye during cardiac systole. Pulsatile ocular blood flow can thus be detected by the continuous monitoring of intraocular pressure. The detected pressure pulse can then be converted into a volume measurement using the known relationship between ocular pressure and ocular volume. Pulsatile blood flow is primarily determined by the choroidal vessels, particularly relevant to patients with glaucoma, since the optic nerve is supplied in large part by the choroidal circulation.

Techniques to Measure Ocular Blood Flow

A number of techniques have been developed to assess ocular blood flow. They include laser speckle flowgraphy, color Doppler imaging, Doppler Fourier domain OCT, laser Doppler velocimetry, confocal scanning laser Doppler flowmetry, and retinal functional imaging.

Laser Speckle Flowgraphy

Laser speckle is detected when a coherent light source such as laser light is dispersed from a diffusing surface such as retinal and choroidal vessels and the circulation of the optic nerve head. The varying patterns of light can be used to determine red blood cell velocity and retinal blood flow. However, due to differences in the tissue structure in different eyes, flux values cannot be used for comparisons between eyes. This limitation may be overcome by subtracting background choroidal blood flow results from the overall blood flow results in the region of interest.

Color Doppler Imaging

Color Doppler imaging has also been investigated as a technique to measure the blood velocity in the retinal and choroidal arteries. This technique delivers ultrasound in pulsed Doppler mode with a transducer set on closed eyelids. The examination takes 30 to 40 minutes, and is most effective for the mean velocity of large ophthalmic vessels such as the ophthalmic artery, the central retinal artery, and the short posterior ciliary arteries. However, total blood flow cannot be determined with this technique, and imaging is highly dependent on probe placement.

Doppler Fourier Domain OCT

Doppler Fourier domain OCT is a noncontact imaging technique that detects the intensity of the light scattered back from erythrocytes as they move in the vessels of the ocular tissue. This induces a frequency shift that represents the velocity of the blood in the ocular tissue.

Laser Doppler Velocimetry

Laser Doppler velocimetry compares the frequency of reflected laser light from a moving particle to stationary tissue.

Confocal Scanning Laser Doppler Flowmetry

Confocal scanning laser Doppler flowmetry combines laser Doppler flowmetry with confocal scanning laser tomography. Infrared laser light is used to scan the retina, and the frequency and amplitude of Doppler shifts are determined from the reflected light. Determinations of blood velocity and blood volume are used to compute the total blood flow and create a physical map of retinal flow values.

Policy:

Analysis of the optic nerve (retinal nerve fiber layer) in the diagnosis and evaluation of patients with glaucoma or glaucoma suspects may be considered medically necessary when using scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, scanning laser polarimetry, and optical coherence tomography. (This test is usually not considered medically necessary more than one per 12 months.)

Measurement of ocular blood flow, pulsatile ocular blood flow or blood flow velocity with Doppler ultrasonography is considered not medically necessary and investigational in the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with glaucoma.

Key Points:

The most recent literature search was performed through January 6, 2019.

Evidence reviews assess whether a medical test is clinically useful. A useful test provides information to make a clinical management decision that improves the net health outcome. That is, the balance of benefits and harms is better when the test is used to manage the condition than when another test or no test is used to manage the condition.

The first step in assessing a medical test is to formulate the clinical context and purpose of the test. The test must be technically reliable, clinically valid, and clinically useful for that purpose. Evidence reviews assess the evidence on whether a test is clinically valid and clinically useful. Technical reliability is outside the scope of these reviews, and credible information on technical reliability is available from other sources.

The use of various techniques of retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) analysis (confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy [CSLO], scanning laser polarimetry [SLP], and optical coherence tomography [OCT]) for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma was addressed by TEC Assessments in 2001 and 2003. The 2003 Assessment offered the following observations:

Imaging of the Optic Nerve and Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer

Clinical Context and Test Purpose

The diagnosis and monitoring of optic nerve damage are essential for evaluating the progression of glaucoma and determining appropriate treatment.

The question addressed in this evidence review is: Do imaging techniques for the optic nerve and RNFL improve diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma.

The following PICOTS were used to select literature to inform this review.

Patients

The relevant populations are patients with glaucoma or who are suspected to have glaucoma and are being evaluated for diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma progression.

Interventions

The tests being considered for assessment of the optic nerve and RNFL include CLSO, SLP, and OCT. These tests are considered add-on to the standard clinical evaluation.

Comparators

There is no single criterion standard for the diagnosis of glaucoma. This diagnosis is made from a combination of visual field testing, intraocular pressure (IOP) measurement, and optic nerve and RNFL assessment by an ophthalmologist.

Outcomes

Relevant outcomes include the clarity of the images and how reliable the test is at evaluating the optic nerve and nerve fiber layer changes. Demonstration that the information can be used to improve patient outcomes is essential for determining the utility of an imaging technology. Although direct evidence on the impact of the imaging technology from controlled trials would be preferred, in most cases, a chain of evidence needs to be constructed to determine whether there is a tight linkage between the technology and improved health outcomes. The outcomes relevant to this evidence review are IOP, loss of vision, and changes in IOP-lowering medications used to treat glaucoma.

Timing

For patients with manifest glaucoma, the relevant period of follow-up is the immediate diagnosis of glaucoma. For patients with suspected glaucoma, longer term follow-up would be needed to detect changes in visual field or RNFL. Clinical utility might be demonstrated by a change in the management and reduction in glaucoma progression across follow-up.

Setting

Patients may be self-referred, referred by optometrists, or referred by a general ophthalmologist to a glaucoma specialist. These procedures can be performed in an ophthalmologist’s office.

Simplifying Test Terms

There are 3 core characteristics for assessing a medical test. Whether imaging, laboratory, or other, all medical tests must be:

  • Technically reliable
  • Clinically valid
  • Clinically useful

Because different specialties may use different terms for the same concept, we are highlighting the core characteristics. The core characteristics also apply to different uses of tests, such as diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring treatment.

Diagnostic tests detect presence or absence of a condition. Surveillance and treatment monitoring are essentially diagnostic tests over a time frame. Surveillance to see whether a condition develops or progresses is a type of detection. Treatment monitoring is also a type of detection because the purpose is to see if treatment is associated with the disappearance, regression, or progression of the condition.

Prognostic tests predict the risk of developing a condition in the future. Tests to predict response to therapy are also prognostic. Response to therapy is a type of condition and can be either a beneficial response or adverse response. The term predictive test is often used to refer to response to therapy. To simplify terms, we use prognostic to refer both, to predicting a future condition or to predicting a response to therapy.

Technically Reliable

Assessment of technical reliability focuses on specific tests and operators and requires review of unpublished and often proprietary information. Review of specific tests, operators, and unpublished data are outside the scope of this evidence review and alternative sources exist. This evidence review focuses on the clinical validity and clinical utility.

Clinically Valid

A test must detect the presence or absence of a condition, the risk of developing a condition in the future, or treatment response (beneficial or adverse).

In 2012, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published a comparative effectiveness review of screening for glaucoma. Included in the review were randomized controlled trials, quasirandomized controlled trials, observational study designs including cohort and case control studies, and case series with more than 100 participants. The interventions evaluated included ophthalmoscopy, fundus photography/computerized imaging (OCT, retinal tomography, SLP), pachymetry (corneal thickness measurement), perimetry, and tonometry. No evidence was identified that addressed whether an open angle glaucoma screening program led to a reduction in intraocular pressure (IOP), less visual impairment, reduction in visual field loss or optic nerve damage, or improvement in patient-reported outcomes. No evidence was identified regarding harms of a screening program. Over 100 studies were identified on the diagnostic accuracy of screening tests. However, due to the lack of a definitive diagnostic reference standard and heterogeneity, synthesis of results could not be completed.

A Cochrane review (2015) assessed the diagnostic accuracy of optic nerve head and RNFL imaging for glaucoma. Included were 103 case-control studies and 3 cohort studies (total N=16,260 eyes) that evaluated the accuracy of recent commercial versions of OCT (spectral domain), Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph (HRT) III, or SLP (GDx VCC or ECC) for diagnosing glaucoma. The population was patients referred for suspected glaucoma, typically due to an elevated IOP, abnormal optic disc appearance, and/or an abnormal visual field identified in primary eye care. Population-based screening studies were excluded. Most comparisons examined different parameters within the 3 tests, and the parameters with the highest diagnostic odds ratio were compared. The 3 tests (OCT, HRT, SLP) had similar diagnostic accuracy. Specificity was close to 95%, while sensitivity was 70%. Because a case-control design with healthy participants and glaucoma patients was used in nearly all studies, concerns were raised about the potential for bias, overestimation of accuracy, and applicability of the findings to clinical practice.

Clinically Useful

A test is clinically useful if the use of the results informs management decisions that improve the net health outcome of care. The net health outcome can be improved if patients receive correct therapy, or more effective therapy, or avoid unnecessary therapy, or avoid unnecessary testing.

Direct Evidence

Direct evidence of clinical utility is provided by studies that have compared health outcomes for patients managed with and without the test. Because these are intervention studies, the preferred evidence would be from randomized controlled trials.

A technology assessment, conducted by Lin et al (2007) for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, reviewed 159 studies, published between 2003 and 2006, evaluating optic nerve head and RNFL devices used to diagnose or detect glaucoma progression. The assessment concluded: “The information obtained from imaging devices is useful in clinical practice when analyzed in conjunction with other relevant parameters that define glaucoma diagnosis and progression.” Management changes for patients diagnosed with glaucoma may include the use of IOP-lowering medications, monitoring for glaucoma progression, and potentially surgery to slow the progression of glaucoma.

Section Summary: Imaging of the Optic Nerve and Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer

Numerous studies and systematic reviews have described findings from patients with glaucoma using CSLO, SLP, and OCT. Although the specificity in these studies was high, it is likely that accuracy was overestimated due to the case-control designs used in the studies. The literature and specialty society guidelines have indicated that optic nerve analysis using CSLO, SLP, and OCT are established add-on tests that can be used with other established tests to improve the diagnosis and direct management of patients with glaucoma and those who are glaucoma suspects. Management changes for patients diagnosed with glaucoma may include the use of IOP-lowering medications, monitoring for glaucoma progression, and potentially surgery.

Evaluation of Ocular Blood Flow

Clinical Context and Test Purpose

The diagnosis and monitoring of optic nerve damage are essential for evaluating the progression of glaucoma and determining appropriate treatment. Measurement of ocular blood flow has been studied as a technique to evaluate patients with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma.

The question addressed in this evidence review is: Do various techniques (e.g., color Doppler imaging [CDI], Doppler Fourier domain OCT, laser Doppler velocimetry, confocal scanning laser Doppler flowmetry, retinal functional imager) for assessing ocular blood flow improve diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma? One potential application is the early detection of normal tension glaucoma (NTG).

The following PICOTS were used to select literature to inform this review.

Patients

The relevant patient population is patients with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma who are being evaluated for diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma progression. These tests may have particular utility for normal tension glaucoma (NTG).

Interventions

The tests being considered for assessment of the optic nerve and optic nerve layer include color Doppler imaging (CDI), Doppler Fourier domain OCT, laser Doppler velocimetry, confocal scanning laser Doppler flowmetry, and retinal functional imager.

Comparators

There is no criterion standard for the diagnosis of glaucoma. The diagnosis of glaucoma is made using a combination of visual field testing, IOP measurements, and optic nerve and RNFL assessment.

Outcomes

Relevant outcomes include the reliability of the test for evaluating ocular blood flow and the association between ocular blood flow parameters and glaucoma progression. Demonstration that the information can be used to improve patient outcomes is essential to determining the utility of a diagnostic technology. Although direct evidence on the impact of the imaging technology from controlled trials would be preferred, in most cases, a chain of evidence is needed to determine whether there is a tight linkage between the technology and improved health outcomes. The outcomes relevant to this evidence review are IOP, loss of vision, and changes in IOP-lowering medications used to treat glaucoma.

Timing

For patients with manifest glaucoma, the relevant period of follow-up is the immediate diagnosis of glaucoma. For patients with suspected glaucoma, longer term follow-up would be needed to detect changes in IOP and loss of vision. Clinical utility might be demonstrated by a change in the management and reduction in glaucoma progression across follow-up.

Setting

Many of these procedures are performed with specialized equipment. While reports of use are longstanding (e.g., Bafa et al [2001]), investigators have commented on the complexity of these parameters and have noted that many of these technologies are not commonly used in clinical settings.

Technically Reliable

Assessment of technical reliability focuses on specific tests and operators and requires review of unpublished and often proprietary information. Review of specific tests, operators, and unpublished data are outside the scope of this evidence review and alternative sources exist. This evidence review focuses on the clinical validity and clinical utility.

Clinically Valid

A test must detect the presence or absence of a condition, the risk of developing a condition in the future, or treatment response (beneficial or adverse).

In 2016, Abegao Pinto et al reported the results from the prospective, cross-sectional, case-control, Leuven Eye Study, which included 614 individuals who had primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG; n=214), NTG (n=192), ocular hypertension (n=27), suspected glaucoma (n=41), or healthy controls (n=140). The objective of this study was to identify the blood flow parameters most highly associated with glaucoma using technology commonly available in an ophthalmologist’s office or hospital radiology department. Assessment of ocular blood flow included CDI, retinal oximetry, dynamic contour tonometry, and OCT enhanced-depth imaging of the choroid. The glaucoma groups had higher perfusion pressure compared to controls (p<0.001), with lower velocities in both central retinal vessels (p<0.05), and choroidal thickness asymmetries. The NTG group, but not the POAG group, had higher retinal venous saturation compared to healthy controls (p=0.005). There were no significant differences in macular scans. The diagnostic accuracy or effects on health outcomes were not addressed.

Kurysheva et al (2017) compared ocular blood flow with choroidal thickness to determine which had a higher diagnostic value for detecting early glaucoma. Thirty-two patients with pre-perimetric glaucoma were matched with 30 control patients. Using OCT, RNFL thickness between groups was found to be comparable; the ganglion cell complex was thicker in the control patients, and there was no significant difference between groups for choroid foveal loss volume. Mean blood flow velocity in the vortex veins had the highest area under the receiver operating characteristic curve ROC (1.0) and z-value (5.35). Diastolic blood flow velocity in the central retinal artery had a diagnostic value of 2.74 and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.73. The authors concluded that this study suggested a diagnostic benefit in measuring blood flow velocities.

Witkowska et al (2017) investigated blood flow regulation using laser speckle flowgraphy in 27 individuals. In this prospective study, the authors specifically looked at mean blur rate blood flow in the optic nerve head and a peripapillary region. First, participants’ blood flow was measured when they were in a sitting position; then, participants were asked to perform an isometric “squatting” exercise for 6 minutes. Compared with baseline (sitting), exercise significantly increased ocular perfusion blood pressure (78.5%), mean blur rate in the tissue of the optic nerve head (18.1%), and mean blur rate in the peripapillary region (21.18.3%) (p<0.001). Few studies have used laser speckle flowgraphy to study autoregulation of ocular blood flow during a change in blood pressure, and this study is limited to Japanese populations. Despite the lack of literature and limited population, the authors noted laser speckle flowgraphy could be a valuable tool to study the regulation of blood flow in the optic nerve head, particularly in patients suspected of having glaucoma or patients who have glaucoma.

Rusia et al (2011) reported on use of CDI in normal and glaucomatous eyes. Using data from other studies, a weighted mean was derived for the peak systolic velocity, end-diastolic velocity, and Pourcelot Resistive Index in the ophthalmic, central retinal, and posterior ciliary arteries. Data from 3061 glaucoma patients and 1072 controls were included. Mean values for glaucomatous eyes were within 1 standard deviation of the values for controls for most CDI parameters. Methodologic differences created interstudy variance in CDI values, complicating the construction of a normative database and limiting its utility. The authors noted that because the mean values for glaucomatous and normal eyes had overlapping ranges, caution should be used when classifying glaucoma status based on a single CDI measurement.

Table 1. Summary of Key Nonrandomized Study Characteristics

Study

Study Type

Country

Dates

Participants

Treatment1

Treatment2

FollowUp

Kurysheva (2017)

Prospective

Russia

NR

Patients with pre-perimetric glaucoma (n=32) and age-matched controls (n=30)

Optical coherence tomography

NR

Witkowska (2017)

Prospective

Austria

2015-2016

Healthy subjects (n=27)

Laser speckle flowgraphy

POAG: primary open-angle glaucoma; NTG: normal-tension glaucoma; OHT: ocular hypertension; NR: not reported.

Table 2. Summary of Key Nonrandomized Study Results

Study

AUCandDiagnosticValueAUCp-value

Increase in OPP from Baseline

Increase in MTONH from Baseline

Increase in MTPPR from Baseline

Kurysheva (2017)

MBFV in VV

1.0; <0.0001

MBFV in CRV

0.85; 0.0001

DBFV in CRA

0.73; 0.006

DBFV in LSPCAs

0.71; 0.011

Witkowska (2017)

78.5+/-19.8%

18.1+/-7.7%

21.1+/-8.3%

AUC: area under the receiver operating characteristic curve; OPP: ocular perfusion pressure; MTONH: mean blur rate in the tissue of the optic nerve head; MTPPR: mean blur rate in the peripapillary region; MBFV: mean blood flow velocity; VV: vortex veins; CRV: central retinal vein; DBFV: diastolic vlood flow velocity; CRA: central retinal artery; LSPCA: lateral short posterior ciliary artery.

Clinically Useful

A test is clinically useful if the use of the results informs management decisions that improve the net health outcome of care. The net health outcome can be improved if patients receive correct therapy, or more effective therapy, or avoid unnecessary therapy, or avoid unnecessary testing.

Direct Evidence

Direct evidence of clinical utility is provided by studies that have compared health outcomes for patients managed with and without the test. Because these are intervention studies, the preferred evidence would be from randomized controlled trials.

The clinical utility of techniques to evaluate ocular blood flow is similar to the other imaging techniques. The objective is to improve the diagnosis and direct management of patients with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma. Measures of ocular blood flow may have particular utility for the diagnosis and monitoring of NTG.

The only longitudinal study identified was a 2012 study by Calvo et al on the predictive value of retrobulbar blood flow velocities in a prospective series of 262 who were glaucoma suspect. At baseline, all participants had normal visual field, increased IOP (mean, 23.56 mm Hg), and glaucomatous optic disc appearance. Blood flow velocities were measured by CDI during the baseline examination, and conversion to glaucoma was assessed at least yearly according to changes observed with CLSO. During the 48-month follow-up, 36 (13.7%) patients developed glaucoma and 226 did not. Twenty (55.5%) of those who developed glaucoma also showed visual field worsening (moderate agreement, κ=0.38). Mean end-diastolic and mean velocity in the ophthalmic artery were significantly reduced at baseline in subjects who developed glaucoma compared with subjects who did not.

Chain of Evidence

Indirect evidence on clinical utility rests on clinical validity. If the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate test performance, no inferences can be made about clinical utility.

The evidence does not permit any inferences about the utility of ocular blood flow evaluation in the evaluation of glaucoma.

Section Summary: Evaluation of Ocular Blood Flow

Techniques to measure ocular blood flow or ocular blood velocity are being evaluated for the diagnosis of glaucoma. Data for these techniques remain limited. Current literature focuses on which technologies are most reliably associated with glaucoma. Literature reviews have not identified studies whether these technologies improve the diagnosis of glaucoma or whether measuring ocular blood flow in patients with glaucoma or suspected glaucoma improves health outcomes.

Summary of Evidence

For individuals who have glaucoma or suspected glaucoma who receive imaging of the optic nerve and RNFL, the evidence includes studies on diagnostic accuracy. Relevant outcomes are test accuracy, symptoms, morbid events, functional outcomes, and medication use. CSLO, SLP, and OCT can be used to evaluate the optic nerve and RNFL in patients with glaucoma and suspected glaucoma. Numerous articles have described findings from patients with known and suspected glaucoma using CSLO, SLP, and OCT. These studies have reported that abnormalities may be detected on these examinations before functional changes are noted. The literature and specialty society guidelines have indicated that optic nerve analysis using CSLO, SLP, and OCT are established add-on tests that may be used to diagnose and manage patients with glaucoma and suspected glaucoma. These results are often considered along with other findings to make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions about glaucoma care, including use of topical medication, monitoring, and surgery to lower IOP. Thus, accurate diagnosis of glaucoma would be expected to reduce the progression of glaucoma. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in a meaningful improvement in the net health outcome.

For individuals who have glaucoma or suspected glaucoma who receive evaluation of ocular blood flow, the evidence includes association studies. Relevant outcomes are test accuracy, symptoms, morbid events, functional outcomes, and medication use. Techniques to measure ocular blood flow or ocular blood velocity are used to determine appropriate glaucoma treatment options. The data for these techniques remain limited. Literature reviews have not identified studies addressing whether these technologies improve diagnostic accuracy or whether they improve health outcomes in patients with glaucoma. Some have suggested that these parameters may inform understanding of the variability in visual field changes in patients with glaucoma, i.e., they may help explain why patients with similar levels of IOP develop markedly different visual impairments. However, data on use of ocular blood flow, pulsatile ocular blood flow, and/or blood flow velocity are currently lacking. The evidence is insufficient to determine the effects of the technology on health outcomes.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

American Academy of Ophthalmology

The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued 2 preferred practice patterns (2015) on primary open-angle glaucoma suspect and primary open-angle glaucoma, both recommending evaluation of the optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). The documents stated that “Although they are distinctly different methodologies, stereoscopic disc photographs and computerized images of the nerve are complementary with regard to the information they provide the clinician who must manage the patient.” The guidelines described 3 types of computer-based imaging devices (confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, scanning laser polarimetry, optical coherence tomography) currently available for glaucoma, which are similar in their ability to distinguish glaucoma from controls and noted that “computer-based digital imaging of the ONH [optic nerve head] and RNFL is routinely used to provide quantitative information to supplement the clinical examination of the optic nerve…. One rationale for using computerized imaging is to distinguish glaucomatous damage from eyes without glaucoma when thinning of the RNFL is measured, thereby facilitating earlier diagnosis and detection of optic nerve damage”. In addition, the Academy concluded that, as device technology evolves, the performance of diagnostic imaging devices is expected to improve.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations

Not applicable.

Key Words:

Doppler ultrasonography, glaucoma, GDx, Glaucoma scope, Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph, Nerve Fiber Analyzer, Ophthalmologic Evaluation, Glaucoma, Optic Nerve Head Analyzer, Optical Coherence Tomography, Pulsatile Ocular Blood Flow, Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer Analysis, Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope, Scanning Laser Polarimetry, TopSS Device, RTVue® XR OCT Avanti™, The iExaminer™

Approved by Governing Bodies:

A number of CSLO, SLP, and OCT devices have been cleared by the FDA through the 510(k) process for imaging the posterior eye segment. For example, the RTVue® XR OCT Avanti™ is an OCT system indicated for the in vivo imaging and measurement of the retina, retinal nerve fiber layer, and optic disc as a tool and aid in the diagnosis and management of retinal diseases by a clinician. The RTVue XR OCT Avanti with Normative Database is a quantitative tool for the comparison of retina, retinal nerve fiber layer, and optic disk measurements in the human eye to a database of known normal subjects. It is intended for use as a diagnostic device to aid in the detection and management of ocular diseases. In 2016, the RTVue XR OCT with Avanti with AngioVue™ Software was cleared by the FDA through the 510(k) process (K153080) as an aid in the visualization of vascular structures of the retina and choroid.

In 2012, the iExaminer™ (Welch Allyn) was cleared for marketing by FDA through the 510(k) process. The iExaminer™ consists of a hardware adapter and associated software (iPhone® App) to capture, store, send, and retrieve images from the PanOptic™ Ophthalmoscope (Welch Allyn) using an iPhone.

Table 3. Ocular Imaging Devices Cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration

Device

Manufacturer

Date Cleared

510.k No.

Indication

RESCAN 700 CALLISTO eye

Carl Zeiss Meditec AG

1/11/2019

K180229

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Retina Workplace

Carl Zeiss Meditec Inc

10/24/2018

K182318

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Spectralis HRA+OCT and variants with High Magnification Module

Heidelberg Engineering GmbH

10/18/2018

K182569

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Spectralis HRA+OCT and variants with OCT Angiography Module

Heidelberg Engineering GmbH

9/13/2018

K181594

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Spectralis HRA + OCT and variants

Heidelberg Engineering GmbH

8/30/2018

K173648

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Image Filing Software NAVIS-EX

Nidek Co. Ltd

7/19/2018

K181345

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Avanti

Optovue Inc.

6/8/2018

K180660

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

P200TE

Optos plc

2/28/2018

K173707

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

DRI OCT Triton

Topcon Corporation

1/19/2018

K173119

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

IMAGEnet 6 Ophthalmic Data System

Topcon Corporation

11/1/2017

K171370

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Spectralis HRA + OCT and variants Spectralis FA+OCT Spectralis ICGA+OCT Spectralis OCT Blue Peak Spectralis OCT with Multicolor

Heidelberg Engineering GmbH

11/1/2017

K172649

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

PRIMUS

Carl Zeiss Suzhou Co. Ltd.

6/21/2017

K163195

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Retina Workplace

Carl Zeiss Meditec AG

6/21/2017

K170638

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

iVue

Optovue Inc.

6/9/2017

K163475

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

3D OCT-1 Maestro

Topcon Corporation

3/3/2017

K170164

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

EnFocus 2300 EnFocus 4400

Bioptigen Inc.

12/9/2016

K162783

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

PLEX Elite 9000 SS-OCT

CARL ZEISS MEDITEC INC.

10/26/2016

K161194

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

3D OCT-1 Maestro

Topcon Corporation

7/28/2016

K161509

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

LSFG-NAVI

Softcare Co. Ltd

5/12/2016

K153239

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Spectralis HRA + OCT and variants (e.g.s below) Spectralis FA+OCT Spectralis ICGA+OCT Spectralis OCT Blue Peak Spectralis OCT ith Multicolor

Heidelberg Engineering GmbH

5/6/2016

K152205

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

RTVue XR OCT Avanti with AngioVue Software

OPTOVUE INC.

2/11/2016

K153080

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

EnFocus 2300 EnFocus 4400

BIOPTIGEN INC.

12/2/2015

K150722

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Optical Coherence Tomography

CARL ZEISS MEDITEC INC

9/1/2015

K150977

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

OCT-Camera

OptoMedical Technologies GmbH

3/4/2015

K142953

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

RESCAN 700 CALLISTO EYE

CARL ZEISS MEDITEC AG

11/18/2014

K141844

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

PROPPER INSIGHT BINOCULAR INDIRECT OPHTHALMOSOPE

PROPPER MANUFACTURING CO.INC.

9/17/2014

K141638

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

CENTERVUE MACULAR INTEGRITY ASSESSMENT

CENTERVUE SPA

4/23/2014

K133758

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

AMICO DH-W35 OPHTHALMOSCOPE SERIES

AMICO DIAGNOSTIC INCORPORATED

3/26/2014

K131939

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

IVUE 500

OPTOVUE INC.

3/19/2014

K133892

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

RS-3000 ADVANCE

NIDEK CO. LTD.

2/19/2014

K132323

Imaging of optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer

Benefit Application:

Coverage is subject to member’s specific benefits. Group specific policy will supersede this policy when applicable.

ITS: Home Policy provisions apply

FEP: Special benefit consideration may apply. Refer to member’s benefit plan. FEP does not consider investigational if FDA approved and will be reviewed for medical necessity.

Current Coding:

CPT Codes:

92133

Scanning computerized ophthalmic diagnostic imaging, posterior segment; with interpretation and report, unilateral or bilateral; optic nerve

0198T

Measurement of ocular blood flow by repetitive pressure sampling, with interpretation and report

References:

  1. Abegao Pinto L, Willekens K, Van Keer K, et al. Ocular blood flow in glaucoma - the Leuven Eye Study. Acta Ophthalmol. Sep 2016; 94(6):592-598.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Preferred Practice Pattern: Primary open-angle suspect. 2015; //www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420 (15)01278-6/pdf. Accessed February 26, 2018.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Preferred Practice Pattern: Primary open-angle glaucoma. 2015; //www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420 (15)01276-2/pdf. Accessed February 26, 2018.

  4. The American Optometric Association. Care of the Patient with Open Angle Glaucoma. 2010; my.ico.edu/file/CPG-9---Open-Angel-Glaucoma.pdf.

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Primary open-angle glaucoma suspect. Preferred practice pattern. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2010. Available online at: one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/default.aspx?dc=1902a3e2-bc8f-4a97-b200-97a4c7682b50&sid=ca9ec1b5-2567-4e85-96f6-b6540e5ac5a1.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Primary open-angle glaucoma. Preferred practice pattern. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2010. Available online at: one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/default.aspx?dc=1902a3e2-bc8f-4a97-b200-97a4c7682b50&sid=ca9ec1b5-2567-4e85-96f6-b6540e5ac5a1.

  7. Bafa M, Lambrinakis I, Dayan M et al. Clinical comparison of the measurement of the IOP with the ocular blood flow tonometer, the Tonopen XL and the Goldmann applanation tonometer. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 2001; 79(1):15-8.

  8. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (TEC). Retinal nerve fiber analysis for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma. TEC Assessments 2001; Volume 16, Tab 13.

  9. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center (TEC). Retinal nerve fiber layer analysis for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma. TEC Assessments 2003; Volume 18, Tab 7.

  10. Calvo P, Ferreras A, Polo V et al. Predictive value of retrobulbar blood flow velocities in glaucoma suspects. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012; 53(7):3875-84.

  11. Chauhan BC, Hicolela MT, Artes PH. Incidence and rates of visual field progression after longitudinally measured optic disc change in glaucoma. Ophthalmology 2009: 116(11):2110-8.

  12. Cioffi GA. Three assumptions: ocular blood flow and glaucoma. J Glaucoma 1998; 7(5):299-300.

  13. Ervin AM, Boland MV, Myrowitz EH et al. Screening for Glaucoma: Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 59 (Prepared by the Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10061.) AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC037-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. April 2012. Available online at: www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/ehc/products/182/1026/CER59_Glaucoma- Screening_Final-Report_20120524.pdf.

  14. Fontana L, Poinoosawmy D, Bunce CV et al. Pulsatile ocular blood flow investigation in asymmetric normal tension glaucoma and normal subjects. Br J Ophthalmol 1998; 82(7):731-6.

  15. Grewal DS, Sehi M, Greenfield DS, et al. Comparing rates of retinal nerve fibre layer loss with GDxECC using different methods of visual-field progression. Br J Ophthalmol 2011; 95(8):1122-1127.

  16. Harris A, Kagermann L, Ehrlich R et al. Measuring and interpreting ocular blood flow and metabolism in glaucoma. Can J Ophthalmol 2008; 43(3):328-36.

  17. James CB. Pulsatile ocular blood flow. Br J Ophthalmol 1998; 82(7):720-1.

  18. Kaiser HJ, Schoetzau A, Stumpfig D et al. Blood-flow velocities of the extraocular vessels in patients with high-tension and normal-tension primary open-angle glaucoma. Am J Ophthalmol 1997; 123(3):320-7.

  19. Kalaboukhova L, Fridhammar V, Lindblom B. Glaucoma follow-up by the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2006 Jun; 244(6):654-62.

  20. Kamal DS, Garway-Heath DF, Hitchings RA et al. Use of sequential Heidelberg retina tomograph images to identify changes at the optic disc in ocular hypertensive patients at risk of developing glaucoma. Br J Ophthalmol 2000; 84(9):993-8.

  21. Kurysheva NI, Parshunina OA, Shatalova EO, et al. Value of structural and hemodynamic parameters for the early detection of primary open-angle glaucoma. Curr Eye Res. Mar 2017; 42(3):411-417.

  22. Kwartz AJ, Henson DB, Harper RA et al. The effectiveness of the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph and laser diagnostic glaucoma scanning system (GDx) in detecting and monitoring glaucoma. Health Technol Assess 2005; 9(46):1-132, iii.

  23. Lalezary M, Medeiros FA, Weinreb RN et al. Baseline optical coherence tomography predicts the development of glaucomatous change in glaucoma suspects. Am J Ophthalmol 2006; 142(4):576-82.

  24. Lin SC, Singh K, Jampel HD et al. Optic nerve head and retinal nerve fiber layer analysis: a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology 2007; 114(10):1937-49.

  25. Medeiros FA, Ng D, Zangwill LM et al. The effects of study design and spectrum bias on the evaluation of diagnostic accuracy of confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy in glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2007; 48(1):214-22.

  26. Michelessi M, Lucenteforte E, Oddone F, et al. Optic nerve head and fiber layer imaging for diagnosing glaucoma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015(11):CD008803.

  27. Mohammadi K, Bowd C, Weinreb RN et al. Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness measurements with scanning laser polarimetry predicts glaucomatous visual field loss. Am J Ophthalmol 2004; 138(4):592-601.

  28. Mohindroo C, Ichhpujani P, Kumar S. Current imaging modalities for assessing ocular blood flow in glaucoma. J Curr Glaucoma Pract. Sep-Dec 2016; 10(3):104-112.

  29. Rankin SJ, Walman BE, Buckley AR et al. Color Doppler imaging and spectral analysis of the optic nerve vasculature in glaucoma. Am J Ophthalmol 1995; 119(6):685-93.

  30. Resch H, Schmidl D, Hommer A et al. Correlation of optic disc morphology and ocular perfusion parameters in patients with primary open angle glaucoma. Acta Ophthalmol 2011; 89(7):e544-9.

  31. Rusia D, Harris A, Pernic A et al. Feasibility of creating a normative database of colour Doppler imaging parameters in glaucomatous eyes and controls. Br J Ophthalmol 2011; 95(9):1193-1198.

  32. Schmidl D, Garhofer G, Schmetterer L. The complex interaction between ocular perfusion pressure and ocular blood flow – Relevance for glaucoma. Exp Eye Res 2011; 93(2):141-155.

  33. Shiga Y, Omodaka K, Kunikata H et al. Waveform analysis of ocular blood flow and the early detection of normal tension glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2013; 54(12):7699-706.

  34. Witkowska KJ, Bata AM, Calzetti G, et al. Optic nerve head and retinal blood flow regulation during isometric exercise as assessed with laser speckle flowgraphy. PLoS One. Sep 12 2017; 12(9):e0184772.

  35. Zangwill LM, Weinreb RN, Beiser JA et al. Baseline topographic optic disc measurements are associated with the development of primary open-angle glaucoma: the confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy ancillary study to the ocular hypertension treatment study. Arch Ophthalmol 2005; 123(9):1188-97.

  36. Zangwill LM, Weinreb RN, Berry CC et al. The confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy ancillary study to the ocular hypertension treatment study: study design and baseline factors. Am J Ophthalmol 2004; 137(2):219-27.

Policy History:

Medical Policy Group, February 2011 (2)

Medical Policy Administration Committee, February 2011

Available for comment February 9 – March 25, 2011

Medical Policy Group, February 2012 (3): Assoc 2012 Update to Description, Key Points, References

Medical Policy Panel, February 2013

Medical Policy Group, February 2013 (3): Update to Key Points, Approved by Governing Bodies and References; no change to policy statement

Medical Policy Panel, February 2014

Medical Policy Group, February 2014 (1): Update to Key Points and References; no change to policy statement

Medical Policy Panel, February 2015

Medical Policy Group, February 2015 (6): Update to Key Points and References; no change to policy statement

Medical Policy Panel, August 2016

Medical Policy Group, September 2016 (6): Updates to Description, Key Points, Regulatory Status, Practice Guidelines, Summary and References. No change to policy intent.

Medical Policy Panel, March 2017

Medical Policy Group, April 2017 (6): Updates to Description, Key Points and References.

Medical Policy Panel, March 2018

Medical Policy Group, March 2018 (6): Updates to Description, Key Points, Key Words and References.

Medical Policy Panel, March 2019

Medical Policy Group, April 2019 (6): Updates to Key Points and Approved by Governing Bodies, Title changed to “Ophthalmologic Techniques That Evaluate the Posterior Segment for Glaucoma”. No change in policy statement.

This medical policy is not an authorization, certification, explanation of benefits, or a contract. Eligibility and benefits are determined on a case-by-case basis according to the terms of the member’s plan in effect as of the date services are rendered. All medical policies are based on (i) research of current medical literature and (ii) review of common medical practices in the treatment and diagnosis of disease as of the date hereof. Physicians and other providers are solely responsible for all aspects of medical care and treatment, including the type, quality, and levels of care and treatment.

This policy is intended to be used for adjudication of claims (including pre-admission certification, pre-determinations, and pre-procedure review) in Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s administration of plan contracts.

The plan does not approve or deny procedures, services, testing, or equipment for our members. Our decisions concern coverage only. The decision of whether or not to have a certain test, treatment or procedure is one made between the physician and his/her patient. The plan administers benefits based on the member’s contract and corporate medical policies. Physicians should always exercise their best medical judgment in providing the care they feel is most appropriate for their patients. Needed care should not be delayed or refused because of a coverage determination.

As a general rule, benefits are payable under health plans only in cases of medical necessity and only if services or supplies are not investigational, provided the customer group contracts have such coverage.

The following Association Technology Evaluation Criteria must be met for a service/supply to be considered for coverage:

1. The technology must have final approval from the appropriate government regulatory bodies;

2. The scientific evidence must permit conclusions concerning the effect of the technology on health outcomes;

3. The technology must improve the net health outcome;

4. The technology must be as beneficial as any established alternatives;

5. The improvement must be attainable outside the investigational setting.

Medical Necessity means that health care services (e.g., procedures, treatments, supplies, devices, equipment, facilities or drugs) that a physician, exercising prudent clinical judgment, would provide to a patient for the purpose of preventing, evaluating, diagnosing or treating an illness, injury or disease or its symptoms, and that are:

1. In accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice; and

2. Clinically appropriate in terms of type, frequency, extent, site and duration and considered effective for the patient’s illness, injury or disease; and

3. Not primarily for the convenience of the patient, physician or other health care provider; and

4. Not more costly than an alternative service or sequence of services at least as likely to produce equivalent therapeutic or diagnostic results as to the diagnosis or treatment of that patient’s illness, injury or disease.