Retinal Thickness and Microvascular Changes in Children With Sickle Cell Disease Evaluated by Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and OCT Angiography

Am J Ophthalmol. 2020 Jan;209:88-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2019.08.019. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


Purpose: To compare the severity of macular vascular changes in children with sickle cell disease (SCD) vs age- and race-matched controls.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: Children (<18 years old) with HbSS and HbS variant (HbSC and HbS thalassemia) genotypes, and their age- and race-matched controls, were recruited between January 2017 and December 2018. All subjects underwent optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) scans centered on the fovea and temporal macula. Retinal thickness, superficial capillary plexus (SCP) and deep capillary plexus (DCP) vessel density (VD), and foveal avascular zone (FAZ) size were measured and compared between HbSS and HbS variant vs controls.

Results: Thirty-four HbSS, 34 HbS variant (Goldberg staging 0-3 for SCD eyes), and 24 control eyes (total 48 children, aged 5-17 years) were included. Total VD (3-mm ETDRS circle) was lower in HbS variant eyes than in controls for both the SCP (42.9% vs 47.7%, P = .02) and DCP (47.4% vs 52.6%, P = .01). In HbSS eyes, VD was lower in the DCP (47.7%, P = .008) but not in the SCP (45.5%, P = .5), compared to controls. A higher proportion of HbSS (n = 18, 55%) than HbS variant eyes (n = 9, 26%) had pathologic areas of retinal thinning associated with SCP and DCP flow loss (P = .03). However, retinal thickness measurements and FAZ size did not differ between either HbSS or HbS variant group vs controls.

Conclusions: Children with SCD have similar retinal thickness but less dense vasculature on OCTA compared to age and race-matched controls, suggesting that microvascular insult may precede structural thinning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / diagnosis*
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography / methods
  • Hemoglobin, Sickle / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods
  • Visual Acuity / physiology


  • Hemoglobin, Sickle