Retinal Blood Vessel Analysis Using Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) in Multiple Sclerosis

Diagnostics (Basel). 2023 Feb 6;13(4):596. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics13040596.


Background: Both greater retinal neurodegenerative pathology and greater cardiovascular burden are seen in people with multiple sclerosis (pwMS). Studies also describe multiple extracranial and intracranial vascular changes in pwMS. However, there have been few studies examining the neuroretinal vasculature in MS. Our aim is to determine differences in retinal vasculature between pwMS and healthy controls (HCs) and to determine the relationship between retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness and retinal vasculature characteristics. Methods: A total of 167 pwMS and 48 HCs were scanned using optical coherence tomography (OCT). Earlier OCT scans were available for 101 pwMS and 35 HCs for an additional longitudinal analysis. Segmentation of retinal vasculature was performed in a blinded manner in MATLAB's optical coherence tomography segmentation and evaluation GUI (OCTSEG) software. Results: PwMS has fewer retinal blood vessels when compared to HCs (35.1 vs. 36.8, p = 0.017). Over the 5.4 year follow up, and when compared to HCs, pwMS has a significant decrease in number of retinal vessels (average loss of -3.7 p = 0.007). Moreover, the total vessel diameter in pwMS does not change when compared to the increase in vessel diameter in the HCs (0.06 vs. 0.3, p = 0.017). Only in pwMS is there an association between lower RNFL thickness and fewer retinal vessel number and smaller diameter (r = 0.191, p = 0.018 and r = 0.216, p = 0.007). Conclusions: Over 5 years, pwMS exhibit significant retinal vascular changes that are related to greater atrophy of the retinal layers.

Keywords: cardiovascular; multiple sclerosis; optical coherence tomography; retinal nerve fiber layer; retinal vessels; vessel diameter.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.