Unique changes in the retinal microvasculature reveal subclinical retinal impairment in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Lulu Bao, Rong Zhou, Yufei Wu, Jianhua Wang, Meixiao Shen, Fan Lu, Hong Wang, Qi Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the changes of the microvasculature and microstructure in the inner intra-retinal layers in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients without lupus retinopathy (LR). Methods: Thirty-two SLE patients (58 eyes) without LR (NLR), 14 patients (22 eyes) with LR and 50 healthy subjects (50 eyes) were enrolled. Spectral domain optical coherence tomography equipped with Angiovue was used to obtain three-dimensional retinal thickness maps and microvascular images of the superficial and deep retinal capillary plexuses (SRCP/DRCP) around the macula. Quantitative analyses were performed using a custom automated algorithm. Disease activity of patients was assessed using the SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI). Results: Retinal capillary skeleton density of the SRCP in SLE patients without LR was significantly lower than the controls in almost all regions, which further decreased in the LR group (P < .05). No significant changes were evident in DRCP of the NLR group (P > .05). The inner retina in the LR group was significantly thinner than the controls in most regions, though there were only a few regions that were different between the NLR and the control groups (P < .05). There were significant differences of the SLEDAI scores between the two SLE groups. Conclusion: Significantly lower density in SRCP and regional thinning in inner retina were observed in the SLE patients without clinical fundus changes. OCT equipped with Angiovue might be useful in evaluating the microvascular and microstructural disorders of the inner retinal layers in SLE patients, which may contribute a quantitative approach to the early diagnosis and progression of LR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103957
JournalMicrovascular Research
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Retinal microvascular
  • Retinal thickness
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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