Photoacoustic imaging for non‐invasive examination of the healthy temporal artery – systematic evaluation of visual function in healthy subjects

Rafi, Sheikh, Björn, Hammar, Magdalena, Naumovska, Ulf, Dahlstrand, Bodil, Gesslein, Tobias, Erlöv, Magnus, Cinthio, Malin, Malmsjö

Acta Ophthalmologica |

Purpose: Photoacoustic (PA) imaging has the potential to become a non-invasive diagnostic tool for giant cell arteritis, as shown in pilot experiments on seven patients undergoing surgery. Here, we present a detailed evaluation of the safety regarding visual function and patient tolerability in healthy subjects, and define the spectral signature in the healthy temporal artery. Methods: Photoacoustic scanning of the temporal artery was performed in 12 healthy subjects using 59 wavelengths (from 680 nm to 970 nm). Visual function was tested before and after the examination. The subjects’ experience of the examination was rated on a 0–100 VAS scale. Two- and three-dimensional PA images were generated from the spectra obtained from the artery. Results: Photoacoustic imaging did not affect the best corrected visual acuity, colour vision (tested with Sahlgren’s Saturation Test or the Ishihara colour vision test) or the visual field. The level of discomfort was low, and only little heat and light sensation were reported. The spectral signature of the artery wall could be clearly differentiated from those of the subcutaneous tissue and skin. Spectral unmixing provided visualization of the chromophore distribution and overall architecture of the artery. Conclusions: Photoacoustic imaging of the temporal artery is well tolerated and can be performed without any risk to visual function, including the function of the retina and the optic nerve. The spectral signature of the temporal artery is specific, which is promising for future method development.