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Julia Aschauer, Stefan Aschauer, Andreas Pollreisz, Felix Datlinger, Constantin Gatterer, Georgios Mylonas, Berit Egner, Dominik Hofer, Irene Steiner, Christian Hengstenberg, Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth; Identification of Subclinical Microvascular Biomarkers in Coronary Heart Disease in Retinal Imaging. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2021;10(13):24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.13.24.
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Cardiovascular disease and foremost coronary heart disease (CHD) are the worldwide leading causes of death. The aim of this study was to use non-invasive, multimodel retinal imaging to define microvascular features in patients with and without coronary angiography (CA)-confirmed CHD.
In this prospective, cross-sectional pilot study we included adult patients who presented to a tertiary referral center for elective CA due to suspected CHD. All patients underwent widefield fundus photography for retinopathy grading. Optical coherence tomography angiography was used to measure vessel density (VD) of the individual capillary plexuses in 6 × 6-mm macular volume scans. Adaptive optics imaging was performed to assess the first-order arteriolar lumen diameter (LD), total diameter (TD), wall-to-lumen ratio (WLR), and wall cross-section area, as well as to qualitatively describe vessel morphology.
Of the included 45 patients (13 females; 65 ± 10 years old), 27 were confirmed with CHD in elective CA. The most prevalent retinal vascular pathologies were arteriovenous nickings, focal arterial narrowings, and microaneurysms. VD in the superficial capillary plexus, deep capillary plexus, and choriocapillaris was lower in CHD patients, although the odds ratios were not significantly different from 1 (P = 0.06–0.92). Median arterial LD, TD, and WLR values were 98.3 µm (interquartile range [IQR] = 13.0), 122.9 µm (IQR = 17.6), and 0.26 µm (IQR = 0.07), respectively, with a trend toward a higher WLR in CHD patients.
In a cardiovascular risk population, high-resolution quantitative and qualitative microvascular phenotyping in the retina may provide valuable subclinical indicators for coronary artery impairment, although larger clinical trials are needed.
Subclinical retinal microvascular changes may serve as non-invasive, cost-effective biomarkers for risk stratification of patients with CHD.
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