Fractal Analysis Reveals Reduced Complexity of Retinal Vessels in CADASIL
by Michele Cavallari, Teresa Falco, Marina Frontali, Silvia Romano, Francesca Bagnato, Francesco Orzi
The Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) affects mainly small cerebral arteries and leads to disability and dementia. The relationship between clinical expression of the disease and progression of the microvessel pathology is, however, uncertain as we lack tools for imaging brain vessels in vivo. Ophthalmoscopy is regarded as a window into the cerebral microcirculation. In this study we carried out an ophthalmoscopic examination in subjects with CADASIL. Specifically, we performed fractal analysis of digital retinal photographs. Data are expressed as mean fractal dimension (mean-D), a parameter that reflects complexity of the retinal vessel branching. Ten subjects with genetically confirmed diagnosis of CADASIL and 10 sex and age-matched control subjects were enrolled. Fractal analysis of retinal digital images was performed by means of a computer-based program, and the data expressed as mean-D. Brain MRI lesion volume in FLAIR and T1-weighted images was assessed using MIPAV software. Paired t-test was used to disclose differences in mean-D between CADASIL and control groups. Spearman rank analysis was performed to evaluate potential associations between mean-D values and both disease duration and disease severity, the latter expressed as brain MRI lesion volumes, in the subjects with CADASIL. The results showed that mean-D value of patients (1.42±0.05; mean±SD) was lower than control (1.50±0.04; p = 0.002). Mean-D did not correlate with disease duration nor with MRI lesion volumes of the subjects with CADASIL. The findings suggest that fractal analysis is a sensitive tool to assess changes of retinal vessel branching, likely reflecting early brain microvessel alterations, in CADASIL patients.
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