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Fundus Fluorescein Angiography

Fundus Fluorescein Angiography (FFA) is a diagnostic photographic procedure of the back of your eye that is performed to give your retinal specialist more information about its condition. A small amount of yellow fluorescein dye will be injected into a vein in your arm which travels around your body highlighting blood vessels. This results in a detailed view of the back of your eye, which helps to inform your treatment plan. Unlike X-Rays, there is no exposure to radiation during this test.

What happens during my Fundus Fluorescein Angiography appointment?

The nurse will dilate your pupils with eye drops, this normally takes between 10-30 minutes and can take longer in patients with dark irises. Please do not drive to your appointment, as your vision may be left blurry for between 6-8 hours. The nurse will also check your blood pressure.

Once your eyes are fully dilated, a doctor or nurse will insert a cannula (a type of needle) into a vein in your forearm or in the back of your hand similar to when you undergo a blood test. They will then ask you to sit in front of the Optos® Ultra-Widefield Retinal Imaging scanner and will take images of your eyes before the dye is injected. The doctor or nurse will inject the dye and afterwards they will take a further set of images.

The test itself takes about 15 minutes. You will experience bright flashing lights throughout the examination.

Prof. Stanga will then review your scan results and discuss them with you at your next appointment.

Possible side effects

Following the dye injection, your skin will have a slight yellow tinge (similar to having a suntan) and your urine will turn bright yellow for approximately 24 hours. This is normal and nothing to be worried about. You should drink plenty of water to flush the dye out of your system and to remain hydrated.

Some of the other more common side effects (affecting approximately 5 people out of a 100) include:

Feeling nauseous or being sick – this usually occurs in the first 1–2 minutes after you are given the injection and, in most cases, it passes within seconds. Taking deep breaths often helps. It is vital that you let us know if you have any allergies or if you have had an unexpected reaction to fluorescein dye before.

A rash, itching or tingling sensation to your skin: very rarely, if the cannula in your arm becomes displaced and dye leaks into the surrounding skin, you may experience a warm sensation. If this happens, the anaesthetist will stop the injection and the sensation should resolve within a few days. We recommend the application of ice to the area of skin affected.

Very rarely, people can have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the fluorescein dye causing breathing or circulatory difficulties. We are equipped to deal with this emergency.

What happens after the procedure?

You will be asked to stay in the clinic for a short while after the test so that you can be observed for any rare late side effects. The cannula will then be removed from your arm and a dressing will be applied before you go home. You will be able to remove the dressing yourself the next day.

As your pupils will still be dilated, your eyes are likely to be more sensitive to light, so you may wish to bring sunglasses.

You must not drive for at least two hours after the procedure or until your pupils return to their normal size and you consider your vision to be normal again. You are advised to bring someone with you to help you get home.