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Matt P. Byrne, Kendall R. McMillan, Brittany Coats; Morphological Analysis of Retinal Microvasculature to Improve Understanding of Retinal Hemorrhage Mechanics in Infants. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(3):16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.3.16.
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In this experimental study, we quantify retinal microvasculature morphological features with depth, region, and age in immature and mature ovine eyes. These data identify morphological vulnerabilities in young eyes to inform the mechanics of retinal hemorrhage in children.
Retinal specimens from the equator and posterior pole of preterm (n = 4) and adult (n = 9) sheep were imaged using confocal microscopy. Vessel segment length, diameter, angular asymmetry, tortuosity, and branch points were quantified using a custom image segmentation code. Significant differences were identified through two-way ANOVAs and correlation analyses.
Vessel segment lengths were significantly shorter in immature eyes compared to adults (P < 0.003) and were significantly shorter at increasing depths in the immature retina (P < 0.04). Tortuosity significantly increased with depth, regardless of age (P < 0.05). These data suggest a potential vulnerability of vasculature in the deeper retinal layers, particularly in immature eyes. Preterm retina had significantly more branch points than adult retina in both the posterior pole and equator, and the number increased significantly with depth (P < 0.001).
The increased branch points and decreased segment lengths in immature microvasculature suggest that infants will experience greater stress and strain during traumatic loading compared to adults. The increased morphological vulnerability of the immature microvasculature in the deeper layers of the retina suggest that intraretinal hemorrhages have a greater likelihood of occurring from trauma compared to preretinal hemorrhages. The morphological features captured in this study lay the foundation to explore the mechanics of retinal hemorrhage in infants and identify vulnerabilities that explain patterns of retinal hemorrhage in infants.
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