Non-invasive structural and metabolic retinal markers of disease activity in non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy

Gwen Weisner, Søren Leer Blindbæk, Fang Yao Tang, Carol Y Cheung, Jan Erik Henriksen, Einar Stefánsson, Tunde Peto, Jakob Grauslund

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Purpose: Metabolic and structural microvascular retinal alterations are essential components in diabetic retinopathy (DR). The present study aimed to measure changes at different stages of non-proliferative DR (NPDR) and to explore interactions of imaging-based metrics. Methods: This cross-sectional, cohort study included 139 eyes from 80 diabetic patients. Each patient underwent dilated fundal examinations including colour fundus photography, retinal oximetry and optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), analysed by semi-automated and automated software. Diabetic retinopathy (DR) severity was classified according to the International Clinical Diabetic Retinopathy (ICDR) Severity Scale, ranging from no DR to severe NPDR (level 0–3). Retinal metabolism was evaluated by oximetry as retinal arteriolar (raSatO2) and venular oxygen saturation (rvSatO2), and macular microvascular structure was measured by OCTA as the area of foveal avascular zone (FAZ), vessel density (VD), vessel diameter index (VDI), FAZ circularity and fractal dimension (FD) in the superficial and deep retinal capillary plexus. Results: A trend for increasing rvSatO2 was found with increasing DR severity (51.3%, 53.3%, 54.2%, 59.8%, p = 0.02). Increasing severity of DR associated with decreasing FD in the superficial and deep plexus (p < 0.001 and p = 0.014), and in the superficial plexus decreasing VD (p < 0.001), increasing VDI (p = 0.003) and decreasing FAZ circularity (p = 0.006). A few interactions were identified between raSatO2, rvSatO2 and VDI, but only in the deep capillary plexus (p < 0.01 and p < 0.01). Conclusion: Alterations of the venular retinal vascular oxygen saturation and microvascular structural abnormities were found continuously throughout the DR-spectrum. Given the sparse correlations between metabolic and structural abnormalities, it seems that these occur independently in DR.
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Ophthalmologica
Early online date08 Jan 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 08 Jan 2021


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