Background: There is experimental evidence that retinal blood flow is impaired in patients with diabetes mellitus. Much less attention has been paid to choroidal blood flow. Hence it was the aim of the present study to investigate choroidal blood flow in diabetic retinopathy.
Methods: A new non-invasive laser interferometric technique was used to measure fundus pulsations in the macula. The fundus pulsation amplitude, which is the maximum distance change between cornea and retina during the cardiac cycle, is a measure of local pulsatile blood flow. The eyes (n = 214) were divided into four groups according to the modified Airlie House classification: (1) no retinopathy (control group), (2) background retinopathy, (3) moderate to severe preproliferative retinopathy, (4) proliferative retinopathy. In 83 eyes of different group fundus pulsation measurements were repeated after 1-6 weeks.
Results: Fundus pulsation amplitudes were significantly smaller in group 4 than in the control group (P < 0.027). The reproducibility of the measurements was high and did not differ among the study groups.
Conclusions: Local fundus pulsations in the macula are reduced in proliferative diabetic retinopathy, which is compatible with previous findings of reduced choroidal blood flow in late stages of the disease. Laser interferometric measurement of fundus pulsations is non-contactile, assures optimal comfort for the patient and could be used for the long-term observation of patients with diabetes mellitus.