An ophthalmologist in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, credits his clinic's new eye imaging technology with saving his life, MS News Now reports.
Dr. David Richardson of the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic was the first person to use the facility's new Optomap eye-imaging system in a trial test supervised by a company representative.
When the camera produced the practice pictures, Richardson noticed suspicious hemorrhages in the blood vessels of his eye.
The digital images startled Richardson, who thought he was healthy. He scheduled an appointment with a cardiovascular surgeon two days later. It was discovered at that time that the hemorrhages in his retina signaled a potentially fatal condition.
"And when I saw that, it really frightened me," Richardson told MS News Now. "So I immediately called my good friend Dr. Robbie Robbins, and we got some testing done. I found out that I had an occlusion of the left anterior descending artery of the heart, which is the 'widowmaker.'"
Heart attacks involving this particular artery are extremely dangerous and potentially lethal.
A day after his appointment, Richardson started having chest pains. When he went to the hospital to have a catheterization done, doctors realized the blockage of his artery was more severe than initially thought. Richardson had surgery early the next morning, only four days after the initial eye exam.
Looking back, Richardson said he noticed he had been suffering symptoms associated with heart problems, such as fatigue and shortness of breath, but dismissed them as a normal part of the aging process, he told MS News.
Richardson said the eye test may have saved his life. "I feel 100 percent better than I did before," he said. "I'm sleeping better. I'm exercising, and just generally feeling better all over."
The Optomap eye imaging camera can take detailed digital pictures of the blood vessels in a patient's eye, which can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Richardson said the Hattiesburg Eye Clinic is the first in the state's Pine Belt area to adopt this technology, which is now being used on patients at the clinic.
Heart attacks cause about 735,000 deaths every year in the United States, according to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.