Imaging techniques based on retinal autofluorescence have found broad applications in ophthalmology because they are extremely sensitive and noninvasive. Conventional fundus autofluorescence imaging measures fluorescence intensity of endogenous retinal fluorophores. It mainly derives its signal from lipofuscin at the level of the retinal pigment epithelium. Fundus autofluorescence, however, can not only be characterized by the spatial distribution of the fluorescence intensity or emission spectrum, but also by a characteristic fluorescence lifetime function. The fluorescence lifetime is the average amount of time a fluorophore remains in the excited state following excitation. Fluorescence lifetime imaging ophthalmoscopy (FLIO) is an emerging imaging modality for in vivo measurement of lifetimes of endogenous retinal fluorophores. Recent reports in this field have contributed to our understanding of the pathophysiology of various macular and retinal diseases. Within this review, the basic concept of fluorescence lifetime imaging is provided. It includes technical background information and correlation with in vitro measurements of individual retinal metabolites. In a second part, clinical applications of fluorescence lifetime imaging and fluorescence lifetime features of selected retinal diseases such as Stargardt disease, age-related macular degeneration, choroideremia, central serous chorioretinopathy, macular holes, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal artery occlusion are discussed. Potential areas of use for fluorescence lifetime imaging ophthalmoscopy will be outlined at the end of this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-143
Number of pages24
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • FLIO
  • Fluorescence lifetimes
  • Fluorophore
  • Fundus autofluorescence
  • Metabolism
  • Retinal imaging


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