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Purpose:To investigate the association of vessel tortuosity with severity of diabetic retinopathy (DR) using optical coherence tomography angiography.Methods:We retrospectively analyzed 30 healthy eyes and 121 eyes of diabetic subjects with no DR, mild nonproliferative DR (NPDR), moderate to severe NPDR and proliferative DR (PDR). Binarized images were used to quantify the vessel tortuosity, vessel density, foveal avascular zone (FAZ) area, and FAZ acircularity. The vessels were divided vertically as superficial retinal layer and deep retinal layer, and horizontally as circular areas with 3 mm and 1.5 mm diameters. Analysis of variance was performed for multiple comparisons. Correlation analysis evaluated the association between the quantified parameters.Results:Compared with healthy eyes, vessel tortuosity increased as DR severity was more in NPDR, but decreased in PDR (P = 0.033). The decrease in vessel density and the increase in both FAZ area and FAZ acircularity were consistent, while DR approached PDR. Among all parameters, statistically significant difference between no DR and mild NPDR was observed only in vessel tortuosity, especially within the 1.5 mm area of superficial retinal layer (P = 0.011). Correlations of vessel tortuosity with FAZ area and acircularity were confined to the 3 mm and 1.5 mm areas of superficial retinal layer (r = −0.185, P = 0.023 for FAZ area; r = 0.268, P = 0.001 for FAZ acircularity), while vessel density strongly correlated with FAZ parameters in the superficial retinal layer and deep retinal layer.Conclusion:Vessel tortuosity increased as the stage of NPDR was more severe, but decreased in PDR. The vessel tortuosity determined using optical coherence tomography angiography might be a useful parameter indicating the progression to PDR, circumventing the risk from invasive conventional angiography.

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