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UPMC Physicians and Researchers Develop IOP Monitoring Device for Glaucoma Patients

September 30, 2020

Piervincenzo Rizzo, PhD, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is leading a project that will help glaucoma patients monitor intraocular pressure (IOP) at home, giving them and their doctors a clearer picture of eye health.

In the same way diabetic patients monitor their blood glucose throughout the day, glaucoma patients should monitor their IOP to ensure it doesn’t get too high. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to monitor changes to IOP at home that would provide reliable readings. This makes it difficult for physicians to monitor the effectiveness of glaucoma treatment. 

The proposed device uses a cylinder containing an array of particles that, when pressed against the closed eyelid, sends an acoustic wave into the eye and waits for it to bounce back. The properties of the returning wave will give the device information about the pressure inside the eye. 

“We’re proposing to use a special family of acoustic waves that can interact with the eye, bouncing back like an echo,” said Dr. Rizzo. “It’s like shouting into a small room versus a large one. The properties of the echo depend on the properties of the room.”

Other members of the team include Sam Dickerson, PhD, in the Swanson School, Ian Sigal, PhD, Ian Conner, MD, PhD, and Robert Handzel, MD, in the Department of Ophthalmology. 

“We understand that intraocular pressure can have a pretty wide range throughout the day but have very few ways to assess this critical variable outside of the clinic,” explained Dr. Conner, Director of UPMC’s Glaucoma Service. “This technology really has a lot of potential to enable non-clinicians, and even patients themselves, to reliably assess intraocular pressure, which will allow their doctors to better tailor their treatments.

The project, titled “Managing Glaucoma in the Digital Age: A New Tonometer to Connect Patients to their Caregivers,” recently received more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation and will begin Oct. 1, 2020. 

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