Association Between Vessel Density and Visual Acuity in Patients With Diabetic Retinopathy and Poorly Controlled Type 1 Diabetes

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018 Jul 1;136(7):721-728. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.1319.

Abstract

Importance: Capillary dropout is a hallmark of diabetic retinopathy, but its role in visual loss remains unclear.

Objective: To examine how macular vessel density is correlated with visual acuity (VA) in patients younger than 40 years who have type 1 diabetes without macular edema but who have diabetic retinopathy requiring panretinal photocoagulation.

Design, settings, and participants: Retrospective cohort study of VA and optical coherence tomography angiography data collected from consecutive patients during a single visit to Lariboisière Hospital, a tertiary referral center in Paris, France. The cohort included 22 eyes of 22 patients with type 1 diabetes without macular edema but with bilateral rapidly progressive diabetic retinopathy that was treated with panretinal photocoagulation between August 15, 2015, and December 30, 2016. Eyes were classified into 2 groups by VA: normal (logMAR, 0; Snellen equivalent, 20/20) and decreased (logMAR, >0; Snellen equivalent, <20/20). The control group included 12 eyes from age-matched healthy participants with normal vision.

Main outcomes and measures: Visual acuity and mean vessel density in 4 retinal vascular plexuses: the superficial vascular plexus and the deep capillary complex, which comprises the intermediate capillary plexus and the deep capillary plexus.

Results: Of the 22 participants, 11 (50%) were men, mean (SD) age was 30 (6) years, and mean (SD) hemoglobin A1c level was 8.9% (1.6%). Of the 22 eyes with diabetic retinopathy, 13 (59%) had normal VA and 9 (41%) had decreased VA (mean [SD]: logMAR, 0.12 [0.04]; Snellen equivalent, 20/25). Mean [SE] vessel density was lower for eyes with diabetic retinopathy and normal VA compared with the control group in the superficial vascular plexus (44.1% [0.9%] vs 49.1% [0.9%]; difference, -5.0% [1.3%]; 95% CI, -7.5% to -2.4%; P < .001), in the deep capillary complex (44.3% [1.2%] vs 50.6% [1.3%]; difference, -6.3% [1.8%]; 95% CI, -9.9% to -2.7%; P = .001), in the intermediate capillary plexus (43.8% [1.2%] vs 49.3% [1.2%]; difference, -5.5% [1.7%]; 95% CI, -9.0% to -2.0%; P = .003), and in the deep capillary plexus (24.5% [1.0%] vs 30.5% [1.0%]; difference, -6.1% [1.4%]; 95% CI, -8.9% to -3.2%; P < .001). Mean vessel density was lower in eyes with diabetic retinopathy and decreased VA compared with eyes with diabetic retinopathy and normal VA; the mean (SE) loss was more pronounced in the deep capillary complex (34.6% [1.5%] vs 44.3% [1.2%]; difference, -9.6% [1.9%]; 95% CI, -13.6% to -5.7%; P < .001), especially in the deep capillary plexus (15.2% [1.2%] vs 24.5% [1.0%]; difference, -9.3% [1.5%]; 95% CI, -12.4% to -6.1%; P < .001), than in the superficial vascular plexus (39.6% [1.1%] vs 44.1% [0.9%]; difference, -4.5% [1.4%]; 95% CI, -7.3% to -1.7%; P = .002).

Conclusions and relevance: These data suggest that in patients with type 1 diabetes without macular edema but with severe nonproliferative or proliferative diabetic retinopathy, decreased VA may be associated with the degree of capillary loss in the deep capillary complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Capillaries / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / surgery
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / surgery
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation
  • Macular Edema / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human