Functional and morphological changes of the retinal vessels in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.


Ophthalmology Department, San Raffaele University Hospital, Milan, Italy. [Email]


Imaging and histopathological studies have demonstrated that structural changes of the retina affect subjects with Alzheimer's disease (AD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The aim of this study was to quantitatively investigate the retinal vessels in these disorders, using dynamic vessel analyzer (DVA) and optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) analysis. Twelve subjects with AD, 12 subjects with MCI, and 32 gender- and age-matched controls were prospectively enrolled. Mean ± SD age was 72.9 ± 7.2 years in the AD group, 76.3 ± 6.9 years in the MCI group, and 71.6 ± 5.9 years in the control group (p = 0.104). In the DVA dynamic analysis, the arterial dilation was decreased in the AD group (0.77 ± 2.06%), in the comparison with the control group (3.53 ± 1.25%, p = 0.002). The reaction amplitude was decreased both in AD (0.21 ± 1.80%, <0.0001) and MCI (2.29 ± 1.81%, p = 0.048) subjects, compared with controls (3.86 ± 1.94%). OCTA variables did not differ among groups. In the Pearson correlation analysis, amyloid β level in the cerebrospinal fluid was directly correlated with the arterial dilation (R = 0.441, p = 0.040) and reaction amplitude (R = 0.580, p = 0.005). This study demonstrate that Alzheimer's and MCI subjects are characterized by a significant impairment of the retinal neurovascular coupling. This impairment is inversely correlated with the level of amyloid β in the cerebrospinal fluid.