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Stefan Puchner, Doreen Schmidl, Laurin Ginner, Marco Augustin, Rainer Leitgeb, Stephan Szegedi, Kristina Stjepanek, Nikolaus Hommer, Martin Kallab, René Marcel Werkmeister, Leopold Schmetterer, Gerhard Garhofer; Changes in Retinal Blood Flow in Response to an Experimental Increase in IOP in Healthy Participants as Assessed With Doppler Optical Coherence Tomography. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(2):33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.2.33.
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Blood flow autoregulation is an intrinsic mechanism of the healthy retinal vasculature to keep blood flow constant when ocular perfusion pressure (OPP) is changed. In the present study, we set out to investigate retinal blood flow in response to an experimental decrease in OPP in healthy participants using Doppler optical coherence tomography.
Fifteen healthy participants aged between 22 and 31 years (mean, 27 ± 3 years) were included in the present open study. IOP was increased stepwise via the suction cup method to induce a decrease in OPP. Retinal blood flow in arteries and veins was assessed using a custom-built Doppler optical coherence tomography system and pressure–flow relationships were calculated to assess autoregulation.
Suction cup application induced a pronounced increase in IOP with a maximum value of 50.5 ± 8.0 mm Hg at the highest level of suction. Pressure–flow relationships revealed that blood flow was autoregulated until the OPP was decreased by approximately 21 mm Hg and started to decrease significantly when the OPP was reduced by 30 mm Hg. Retinal blood flow at the last suction period decreased at a maximum of –57.0 ± 22.3% and 65.2 ± 15.4% in retinal arteries and retinal veins, respectively. These changes in retinal blood flow were less pronounced than the decrease in OPP (–75.2 ± 19.2%), indicating retinal autoregulation.
The results of the present study confirm that retinal blood flow is autoregulated in response to changes in the OPP. Doppler optical coherence tomography has the potential to become a clinical tool for the investigation of retinal blood flow autoregulation in the future, because of its ability to assess the blood velocities and diameter of the retinal vessels parallel and therefore also their blood flow in absolute values. (Clinicaltrials.gov number NCT03398616)
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