Retinal oxygen saturation changes progressively over time in diabetic retinopathy

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  • Sveinn Hakon Hardarson, University of Iceland
  • ,
  • Einar Stefansson, University of Iceland, Landspitali University Hospital
  • ,
  • Toke Bek

Purpose According to cross-sectional studies, oxygen saturation is elevated in retinal vessels in diabetic patients. We evaluated how retinal oxygenation (metabolic marker), vessel diameters and retinopathy grade (structural markers) change over time in diabetic patients. Design Prospective cohort study following screening in a hospital setting. Methods Retinal oximetry images were acquired in 214 patients with the Oxymap T1 oximeter. Imaging was repeated after a median of 3.0 years (range 0.76 6.8 years). Oxygen saturation and vessel diameters were measured in the right eye. Semiquantitative grading of retinopathy according to international guidelines and red lesion count were performed on fundus photographs. Results Retinopathy grade according to the international semiquantitative grading system was unchanged. Arteriolar saturation increased by 0.75±0.15 percentage points per year of follow-up (p<0.0001). Venular saturation increased by 1.74±0.26 percentage points per year (p<0.0001) and arteriovenous difference decreased by 0.99±0.20 percentage points per year (p<0.0001). Arteriolar diameters decreased by 2.7±8.5μm (p<0.0001) between visits and venular diameters decreased by 2.4±9.1μm (p = 0.0002). Median increase in red lesion count between visits was 2 lesions (range-128 to 212 lesions, p<0.0001). The change in red lesion count and change in diameters did not correlate with the length of follow-up (p>0.44). Conclusions Oxygen saturation in larger retinal vessels can increase and arteriovenous difference can decrease over time in diabetic patients without any observable changes in retinopathy grade. The results suggest that changes in retinal oxygen saturation may precede progression of diabetic retinopathy or that oxygen saturation is more sensitive to disease progression than retinopathy grade.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0251607
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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