Objective Changes to the retinal vasculature are known to be associated with hypertension independently of traditional risk factors. We investigated whether measurements of retinal vascular calibre from ultra-widefield fundus imaging were associated with hypertensive status.
Methods We retrospectively collected and semiautomatically measured ultra-widefield retinal fundus images from a subset of participants enrolled in an ongoing population study of ageing, categorised as normotensive or hypertensive according to thresholds on systolic/diastolic blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg) measured in a clinical setting. Vascular calibre in the peripheral retina was measured to calculate the nasal–annular arteriole:venule ratio (NA-AVR), a novel combined parameter.
Results Left and right eyes were analysed from 440 participants (aged 50–59 years, mean age of 54.6±2.9 years, 247, 56.1% women), including 151 (34.3%) categorised as hypertensive. Arterioles were thinner and the NA-AVR was smaller in people with hypertension. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of NA-AVR for hypertensive status was 0.73 (95% CI 0.68 to 0.78) using measurements from left eyes, while for right eyes, it was 0.64 (95% CI 0.59 to 0.70), representing evidence of a statistically significant difference between the eyes (p=0.020).
Conclusions Semiautomated measurements of NA-AVR in ultra-widefield fundus imaging were associated with hypertension. With further development, this may help screen people attending routine eye health check-ups for high blood pressure. These individuals may then follow a care pathway for suspected hypertension. Our results showed differences between left and right eyes, highlighting the importance of investigating both eyes of a patient.
- imaging and diagnostics
- microvascular disease
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Collaborators The Northern Ireland Cohort of Longitudinal Ageing. IY-first Principal Investigator of NICOLA study. FK-Chair of the NICOLA Scientific Steering Committee
Contributors GR was the primary author and researcher for the manuscript. EP, AF and TM contributed to algorithm development. GR and NQ curated the dataset. AF, ET, GJMcK, JH and TM were supervisors and contributed to the review and accuracy of the manuscript. RH, FK and IY supervised the NICOLA study. All coauthors contributed to the interpretation of the results, drafted the manuscript and reviewed the final version.
Funding This study was funded by Scottish Image Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence Knowledge Exchange Programme and Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (1011973).
Competing interests GR, AF, EP and JvH: current employment at Optos plc. ET, NQ, RH, TP and TM: research grant. GJMcK: consultant.
Patient consent for publication Obtained.
Ethics approval Written informed consent, covering the use of data in future studies, was obtained from participants prior to taking part, and followed ethical approval from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences Ethics Committee, Queen’s University Belfast (SREC 12/23).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Data is available from the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Aging (NICOLA); a long-term study of ageing in people aged 50 and over, with projected 10-year follow-up. We aim to encourage and facilitate data access with all ‘bona fide’ researchers and research organisations as defined by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) (https://www.ukri.org/) and welcome proposals from researchers, either for collaborative projects or for other forms of data access in order to help advance research knowledge. For further information please see: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/NICOLA/InformationforResearchers/.
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