Can 3D facial imaging help manage thyroid eye disease (TED)?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / British Thyroid Foundation Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Mr Daniel Ezra
  • Institute: Moorfields Eye Hospital
  • Region: London
  • Start date: April 2016
  • End Date: May 2017
  • Priority: Early detection
  • Eye Category: Ocular inflammatory


Thyroid eye disease or ‘TED’ is an inflammatory disorder of the fat and muscle at the back of the eye. These can swell and compresses the specialised cable that sends visual signals from eye to brain (the optic nerve). If the optic nerve becomes compressed, people may experience sight loss. Losing muscle function around the eyes can also cause debilitating double vision.

Current treatments for TED include ‘orbital decompression surgery’ to increase the space around the eye by removing tissue or bone. But it’s hard to predict the effect, either for the soft tissues around the eye or for reversing the facial disfigurement. This makes it hard to give the right counselling to the patient on how surgery might help to make them look more like themselves again.

In three pilot studies, the researchers are testing a sophisticated 3D imaging system that has been used in breast reconstruction and surgery to rebuild the head and face. It captures 3D images of patients and uses software to study changes in volume, contour and shape or to simulate the change in appearance that could be achieved by having surgery. The team expect their results to help quantify the 3D changes around the eye in TED. This could provide outcome measures which are better matched with what patients want and can be used to give a measure of how disfiguring TED is for each person. It could also help predict and monitor the condition’s progress or analyse outcomes from treatment.