Retinal microvascular alterations related to diabetes assessed by optical coherence tomography angiography: A cross-sectional analysis

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Abstract

Fluorescein angiography has been so far the gold-standard test to assess diabetic macular ischemia (DMI), a cause of irreversible visual impairment in diabetic patients. The aim of this study was to investigate foveal avascular zone (FAZ) and perifoveal microcirculation changes in eyes with nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR) using optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), a new and noninvasive vascular imaging technique.

Cross-sectional study including eyes of diabetic patients with NPDR.

All patients underwent medical history, best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) measurement, slit-lamp and fundus examination, multicolor imaging, SD-OCT, and swept-source OCT. OCTA was performed in order to assess macular superficial and deep capillary plexus, and swept-source OCT was performed to evaluate the central choroidal thickness.

Fifty-eight eyes of 35 patients with a mean age of 61.8 years (±12.1) with mean HbA1C level of 7.6% (±1.5) were included in this study. Among them, 19 eyes had mild NPDR, 24 eyes had moderate NPDR, and 15 eyes had severe NPDR. There was a significant progression between NPDR stages for FAZ grade (P < 0.0001), surface (P = 0.0036) and perimeter (P = 0.0001), and for superficial capillary plexus nonperfusion index (NPI) (P = 0.0009). Moreover, a significant correlation was found between NPI and BCVA (P = 0.007).

OCT angiography is a useful noninvasive tool to explore early phases of diabetic retinopathy, which are not routinely explore with fluorescein angiography and not precisely enough with color photographs. NPI and foveal avascular zone parameters are correlated with glycated hemoglobin in patients with NPDR. If confirmed by further studies, these results could represent a mean to sensibilize diabetic patients to their disease.

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