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Rapid, automated mosaicking of the human corneal subbasal nerve plexus


Corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) is an in vivo technique used to study corneal nerve morphology. The largest proportion of nerves innervating the cornea lie within the subbasal nerve plexus, where their morphology is altered by refractive surgery, diabetes and dry eye. The main limitations to clinical use of CCM as a diagnostic tool are the small field of view of CCM images and the lengthy time needed to quantify nerves in collected images. Here, we present a novel, rapid, fully automated technique to mosaic individual CCM images into wide-field maps of corneal nerves. We implemented an OpenCV image stitcher that accounts for corneal deformation and uses feature detection to stitch CCM images into a montage. The method takes 3-5 min to process and stitch 40-100 frames on an Amazon EC2 Micro instance. The speed, automation and ease of use conferred by this technique is the first step toward point of care evaluation of wide-field subbasal plexus (SBP) maps in a clinical setting.

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