Retinal capillary perfusion heterogeneity in diabetic retinopathy detected by optical coherence tomography angiography

Po Hsiang (Shawn) Yuan, Arman Athwal, Mena Shalaby, Andrew Mehnert, Dao Yi Yu, Rony C. Preti, Marinko Sarunic, Eduardo V. Navajas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a leading cause of blindness and involves retinal capillary damage, microaneurysms, and altered blood flow regulation. Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) is a non-invasive way of visualizing retinal vasculature but has not been used extensively to study blood flow heterogeneity. The purpose of this study is to detect and quantify blood flow heterogeneity utilizing en-face swept source OCTA in patients with DR. Methods: This is a prospective clinical study which examined patients with either type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus. Each included eye was graded clinically as no DR, mild DR, or moderate-severe DR. Ten consecutive en face 6 × 6 mm foveal SS-OCTA images were obtained from each eye using a PLEX Elite 9000 (Zeiss Meditec, Dublin, CA). Built-in fixation-tracking, follow-up functions were utilized to reduce motion artifacts and ensure same location imaging in sequential frames. Images of the superficial and deep vascular complexes (SVC and DVC) were arranged in temporal stacks of 10 and registered to a reference frame for segmentation using a deep neural network. The vessel segmentation was then masked onto each stack to calculate the pixel intensity coefficient of variance (PICoV) and map the spatiotemporal perfusion heterogeneity of each stack. Results: Twenty-nine eyes were included: 7 controls, 7 diabetics with no DR, 8 mild DR, and 7 moderate-severe DR. The PICoV correlated significantly and positively with DR severity. In patients with DR, the perfusion heterogeneity was higher in the temporal half of the macula, particularly in areas of capillary dropout. PICoV also correlates as expected with the established OCTA metrics of perfusion density and vessel density. Conclusion: PICoV is a novel way to analyze OCTA imaging and quantify perfusion heterogeneity. Retinal capillary perfusion heterogeneity in both the SVC and DVC increased with DR severity. This may be related to the loss of retinal capillary perfusion autoregulation in diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Retina and Vitreous
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jan 2024


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