Portable pupillography of the swinging flashlight test to detect afferent pupillary defects

Nicholas J. Volpe*, Elizabeth S. Plotkin, Maureen G. Maguire, Ravi Hariprasad, Steven L. Galetta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the ability of a portable, personal computer-driven, pupillometer to record the pupillary response curve during the swinging flashlight test. Also, to determine whether these response curves can be used to identify and quantify relative asymmetry in the pupillary light reflex between eyes in healthy volunteers with simulated afferent pupil defects (APDs) and patients with optic neuropathies. Design: Comparative, observational case series and instrument validation. Participants: Healthy volunteers with no known ocular disease and patients (n = 20) with various optic neuropathies noted to have relative APDs on examination. Methods: Pupillary response curves of the right eye were recorded with a portable, electronic, infrared pupillometer from healthy volunteers (with and without simulated APDs) and patients with APDs while the light stimulus alternated between eyes, simulating the swinging flashlight test. Simulated APDs in healthy volunteers were created with increasingly dense neutral density filters in front of the left eye. Main Outcome Measures: Differences in constriction amplitude, latency, and constriction velocity of the pupillary response with right eye stimulation versus left eye stimulation in both groups of subjects. Results: A significant correlation between neutral density filter strength and intereye differences was seen for all measurement parameters in volunteers with simulated APDs. Depending on the measurement parameter and stimulus intensity, simulated APDs of 0.6 log units or more could be distinguished from normal responses. Clinically graded true APDs had intereye differences similar to simulated APDs of the same density. Those with real and simulated APDs of 0.9 log units or more could be distinguished from healthy volunteers with 80% sensitivity and 92% specificity. Responses from those with real and simulated small APDs of 0.3 to 0.6 log units could not be distinguished reliably. Conclusions: Portable, personal-computer driven, electronic, infrared pupillography can record the swinging flashlight test accurately and identify large afferent pupillary defects. An affordable, portable, reliable device for identifying relative APDs would be useful in the identification and follow-up of patients with neurogenic vision loss. (C) 2000 American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1921
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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