Retinal capillary rarefaction is associated with arterial and kidney damage in hypertension

Shaun Frost, Janis Marc Nolde, Justine Chan, Anu Joyson, Cynthia Gregory, Revathy Carnagarin, Lakshini Y. Herat, Vance B. Matthews, Liam Robinson, Janardhan Vignarajan, David Prentice, Yogesan Kanagasingam, Markus P. Schlaich

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Microvascular disease and rarefaction are key pathological hallmarks of hypertension. The retina uniquely allows direct, non-invasive investigation of the microvasculature. Recently developed optical coherence tomography angiography now allows investigation of the fine retinal capillaries, which may provide a superior marker of overall vascular damage. This was a prospective cross-sectional study to collect retinal capillary density data on 300 normal eyes from 150 hypertensive adults, and to investigate possible associations with other organ damage markers. The average age of participants was 54 years and there was a greater proportion of males (85; 57%) than females. Multivariate, confounder adjusted linear regression showed that retinal capillary rarefaction in the parafovea was associated with increased pulse wave velocity (β = − 0.4, P = 0.04), log-albumin/creatinine ratio (β = − 0.71, P = 0.003), and with reduced estimated glomerular filtration rate (β = 0.04, P = 0.02). Comparable significant associations were also found for whole-image vascular-density, for foveal vascular-density significant associations were found with pulse wave velocity and estimated glomerular filtration rate only. Our results indicate that retinal capillary rarefaction is associated with arterial stiffness and impaired kidney function. Retinal capillary rarefaction may represent a useful and simple test to assess the integrated burden of hypertension on the microvasculature irrespective of current blood pressure levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1001
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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