Objectives: Systemic hypertension (SHT) causes severe target organ damage (TOD) and blood pressure (BP) measurement should be routine in at-risk populations. Fundoscopy is a tool to corroborate acute clinical relevance of high BP results and to decide on immediate therapy. Not every cat with a high BP result can be examined by an ophthalmologist. The study objective was to determine the reliability of fundoscopy in cats with SHT performed by a veterinarian without ophthalmology specialty training.
Methods: Cats with suspicion of hypertensive TOD or belonging to a risk population for SHT with a first measurement of elevated BP >160 mmHg were enrolled. Indirect ophthalmoscopy was performed by a recent graduate veterinarian followed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Confirmation of SHT was based on two additional sets of systolic BP measurements >160 mmHg by Doppler sphygmomanometry.
Results: Thirty-three cats were included. SHT was confirmed in 27 cats. SHT was detected on routine examinations in 12/27 cats; fundoscopic lesions were observed in 9/12 by the non-trained veterinarian and in 11/12 by an ophthalmologist. Nine of 27 cats were neurological patients; fundoscopic lesions were detected in 4/9 by the non-trained veterinarian and in 7/9 by an ophthalmologist. Six of 27 cats were presented for acute blindness; fundus lesions were detected in all six cats by the non-trained veterinarian and ophthalmologist. SHT was not confirmed and fundoscopic lesions were not detected by either examiner in 6/33 cats. Compared with a veterinary ophthalmologist, reliability of detecting fundus abnormalities by the non-trained veterinarian was 72% (13/18) for cats with, and 100% (6/6) for cats without, vision.
Conclusions and relevance: Fundus examination by a non-specialty trained veterinarian has reasonably high reliability for the detection of ocular TOD. Private practice veterinarians are encouraged to perform an initial fundic examination in suspected hypertensive cats.