Background and purpose: Silent brain infarction (SBI), which is cerebral target organ damage of hypertensive microangiopathies, is frequently seen in hypertensive patients. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relation between hypertensive retinopathy (HTR) and SBI in subjects without a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack.
Methods: Five hundred-fifty hypertensive subjects without history of stroke or transient ischemic attack had brain MRI and retinal photographs taken. The presence of SBI was assessed from the MRI scans, which was defined as a lesion of at least 3 mm in diameter with typical imaging characteristics. The presence HTR was defined from digitized retinal photographs.
Results: Seventy-seven subjects (14%) showed HTR (grade 1 in 46, grade 2 in 31 persons). A multivariate analysis showed that age (OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.10) and HTR (OR, 2.01 for grade 1; OR, 3.03 for grade 2) were the independent indicators for the presence of SBI. The higher the grade of HTR, the more prevalent SBI than persons with normal retina (by linear by linear association test, p=0.001).
Conclusion: HTR is associated with the presence of SBI. This finding suggests that retinal photography may be useful for identifying hypertensive subjects at increased risk of having SBI regardless of current blood pressure status.