Purpose: Fractal analysis can be used to quantitatively analyze the retinal microvasculature and might be a suitable method to quantify retinal capillary changes in sickle cell disease (SCD) patients. Retinal oximetry measurements might function as a proxy for the pathophysiology of cerebrovascular diseases. Moreover, hypoxia has an important role in the pathophysiology of diabetic and other retinopathies. However, little is known about the oximetry around the macula in SCD patients. With this study, we explored the feasibility to perform these quantified measurements in SCD patients.
Methods: Retinal microvascular and oximetry measurements were performed in eight SCD patients and eight healthy matched controls. Oximetry pictures and non-invasive capillary perfusion maps (nCPM) were obtained by the retinal function imager. Measurements were conducted twice on two different study days. Measured variables included monofractal dimension (Dbox), relative saturation, deoxygenated hemoglobin (deoxyHb), and oxygenated hemoglobin (oxyHb) concentration.
Results: No statistically significant differences in vessel density were found in the different annular zones (large vessels, p = 0.66; small vessels, p = 0.66) and anatomical quadrants (large vessels, p = 0.74; small vessels, p = 0.72). Furthermore, no significant between-group differences were found in the other different anatomical quadrants and annular zones around the fovea for relative saturation levels and deoxygenated Hb. However, the oxyHb levels were significantly lower in SCD patients, compared with those in matched controls in the temporal quadrants (p = 0.04; p = 0.02) and the superior nasal quadrant (p = 0.05).
Conclusions: Our study demonstrated the feasibility of multispectral imaging to measure retinal changes in oxygenation in both SCD patients and matched volunteers. The results suggest that in SCD patients before any structural microvascular changes in the central retina are present, functional abnormalities can be observed with abnormal oximetry measurements.
Keywords: Computer-assisted; Image processing; Microvessels; Retina analysis; Sickle cell disease.