PURPOSE: To determine retinal microcirculation measured as retinal tissue perfusion (RTP) in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, and to compare its discrimination ability to that of retinal microvasculature and microstructure. METHODS: Thirty eyes of 18 patients with mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy and 20 eyes of 20 age-matched and gender-matched normal controls were imaged. Retinal blood flow velocity and flow rate were measured using a retinal function imager. Retinal vessel density (Dbox) and intraretinal layer thicknesses were measured using optical coherence tomography angiography. Retinal tissue perfusion was measured as retinal blood flow divided by the volume of the inner retina. RESULTS: Compared with normal control, RTP, vessel density, and the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer in patients with mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy showed significant reduction (P < 0.05). Retinal tissue perfusion had the best discrimination power (area under the curve = 0.97), with a sensitivity of 93.3% and specificity of 85.0%. In the eyes with mild nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, RTP correlated with arteriolar blood flow velocity (r = 0.403, P = 0.027) but was unrelated to vessel density in any layer (r = -0.010 to 0.261, P > 0.05). CONCLUSION: Because of its highest discrimination power, RTP may become a promising biomarker for detecting early-stage diabetic retinopathy.
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