INTRODUCTION: As the only part of the human vasculature, the retina is available for direct, noninvasive inspection. Retinal vascular fractal dimension (DF) is a method to measure the structure of the retinal vascular tree, with higher noninteger values between 1 and 2 representing a more complex and dense retinal vasculature. Retinal vascular structure has been associated with a variety of systemic diseases, and this study examined the association of DF and macrovascular cardiac disease in a case-control design.
METHODS: Retinal fundus photos were captured with Topcon TRC-50X in 38 persons that had coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG, cases) and 37 cardiovascular healthy controls. The semiautomatic software VAMPIRE was used to measure retinal DF.
RESULTS: Patients with CABG had lower DF of the retinal main venular vessels compared to the control group (1.15 vs. 1.18, p = 0.01). In a multivariable regression model adjusted for gender and age, eyes in the fourth quartile with higher DF were less likely to have CABG compared to patients in the first (OR, 7.20; 95% confidence interval: 1.63-31.86; p = 0.009) and second (OR, 8.25; 95% confidence interval: 1.70-40.01; p = 0.009) quartiles.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that lower complexity of main venular vessels associates with higher risk of having CABG. The research supports the hypothesis that the retinal vascular structure can be used to assess nonocular macrovascular disease.