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Macular and Optic Nerve Head Vessel Density and Progressive Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer Loss in Glaucoma

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To investigate prospectively the relationship between macular and peripapillary vessel density and progressive retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) loss in patients with mild to moderate primary open-angle glaucoma.


Prospective, observational study.


One hundred thirty-two eyes of 83 patients with glaucoma followed up for at least 2 years (average: 27.3±3.36 months).


Measurements of macular whole image vessel density (m-wiVD) and optic nerve head whole image vessel density (onh-wiVD) were acquired at baseline using OCT angiography. RNFL, minimum rim width (MRW), and ganglion cell plus inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) thickness were obtained semiannually using spectral-domain OCT. Random-effects models were used to investigate the relationship between baseline vessel density parameters and rates of RNFL loss after adjusting for the following confounding factors: baseline visual field mean deviation, MRW, GCIPL thickness, central corneal thickness (CCT), and mean intraocular pressure during follow-up and disc hemorrhage, with or without including baseline RNFL.

Main outcome measures

Effects of m-wiVD and onh-wiVD on rates of RNFL loss over time.


Average baseline RNFL thickness was 79.5±14.8 μm, which declined with a mean slope of -1.07 μm/year (95% confidence interval, -1.28 to -0.85). In the univariate model, including only a predictive factor and time and their interaction, each 1% lower m-wiVD and onh-wiVD was associated with a 0.11-μm/year (P < 0.001) and 0.06-μm/year (P = 0.031) faster rate of RNFL decline, respectively. A similar relationship between low m-wiVD and onh-wiVD and faster rates of RNFL loss was found using different multivariate models. The association between vessel density measurements and rate of RNFL loss was weak (r2 = 0.125 and r2 = 0.033 for m-wiVD and onh-wiVD, respectively). Average CCT also was a predictor for faster RNFL decline in both the univariate (0.11 μm/year; P < 0.001) and multivariate models.


Lower baseline macular and optic nerve head (ONH) vessel density are associated with a faster rate of RNFL progression in mild to moderate glaucoma. Assessment of ONH and macular vessel density may add significant information to the evaluation of the risk of glaucoma progression and prediction of rates of disease worsening.

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