Introduction Laser scanning in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM) enables non-invasive, high-resolution imaging of the cornea. In recent years, there has been a vast increase in researchers using laser scanning IVCM to image and quantify corneal nerve parameters. However, a range of methodological approaches have been adopted. The primary aim of this systematic review is to critically appraise the reported method(s) of primary research studies that have used laser scanning IVCM to quantify corneal sub-basal nerve plexus (SBNP) parameters in humans, and to examine corneal nerve parameters in healthy individuals. Methods and analysis A systematic review of primary studies that have used laser scanning IVCM to quantify SBNP parameters in humans will be conducted. Comprehensive electronic searches will be performed in Ovid MedLine, Embase and the Cochrane Library. Two reviewers will independently assess titles and abstracts, and exclude studies not meeting the inclusion criteria. For studies judged eligible or potentially eligible, full texts will be independently assessed by two reviewers to determine eligibility. A third reviewer will resolve any discrepancies in judgement. Risk of bias will be assessed using a custom tool, covering five methodological domains: participant selection, method of image capture, method of image analysis, data reporting and other sources of bias. A systematic narrative synthesis of findings will be provided. A multilevel random-effects meta-analysis will be performed for corneal nerve parameters derived from healthy participants. This review will be reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses statement. Ethics and dissemination As this review considers published data, ethical approval is not required. We foresee that this synthesis will serve as a reference for future studies, and can be used to inform best practice standards for using IVCM in clinical research. A manuscript reporting the results of the review will be published and may also be presented at scientific conferences.
- corneal and external diseases
- systematic review