To assess capillary dropout in the superficial retinal capillary plexus (SCP) by optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) in the early stage of diabetic retinopathy (DR).
This study was a cross-sectional observational study. Patients that underwent OCTA examinations in our hospital between November 2015 and May 2016 were included in the study. The subjects were divided into two groups: A) normal controls (41 eyes of 41 subjects) and B) the DR patients (49 eyes of 49 patients with mild non-proliferative DR (NPDR)). The retinal thickness and SCP vessel density were analyzed using built-in software in nine sections of the macular area; whole scan area; fovea; parafovea; and sub-sections of the parafovea, superior-hemi, inferior-hemi, temporal, superior, nasal, and inferior. The correlation between vessel density and retinal thickness was also analyzed.
The SCP density was significantly lower (P < 0.05) in mild NPDR patients than in normal controls in all areas, with the exception of the fovea (P > 0.05). In the parafovea, superior-hemi, inferior-hemi, temporal, and nasal sectors of group B, the SCP density was negatively correlated with the corresponding retinal thickness (P < 0.05). Specifically, as the SCP density decreased, retinal thickness increased.
In the early stage of NPDR, retinal capillary dropout and retinal thickness changes can be clearly captured and analyzed by OCTA. The results confirm a negative correlation between vessel density and retinal thickness in diabetic patients. This noninvasive technique could be applied for DR detection and monitoring. Further study with a larger sample size is warranted.