NYMC Faculty Publications

Impaired Cerebrovascular Reactivity Correlates With Reduced Retinal Vessel Density in Patients With Carotid Artery Stenosis: Cross-Sectional, Single Center Study

Author Type(s)


Journal Title


First Page


Document Type


Publication Date





BACKGROUND: The cerebral and retinal circulation systems are developmentally, anatomically, and physiologically interconnected. Thus, we hypothesized that hypoperfusion due to atherosclerotic stenosis of the internal carotid artery (ICA) can result in disturbances of both cerebral and retinal microcirculations. We aimed to characterize parameters indicating cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) and retinal microvascular density in patients with ICA stenosis, and assess if there is correlation between them. METHODS: In this cross-sectional study the middle cerebral artery (MCA) blood flow velocity was measured by transcranial Doppler (TCD) and, simultaneously, continuous non-invasive arterial blood pressure measurement was performed on the radial artery by applanation tonometry. CVR was assessed based on the response to the common carotid artery compression (CCC) test. The transient hyperemic response ratio (THRR) and cerebral arterial resistance transient hyperemic response ratio (CAR-THRR) were calculated. Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) was used to determine vessel density (VD) on the papilla whole image for all (VDP-WIall) and for small vessels (VDP-WIsmall). The same was done in the peripapillary region: all (VDPPall), and small (VDPPsmall) vessels. The VD of superficial (VDMspf) and deep (VDMdeep) macula was also determined. Significance was accepted when p<0.05. RESULTS: Twenty-four ICA stenotic patients were evaluated. Both CVR and retinal VD were characterized. There was a significant, negative correlation between CAR-THRR (median = -0.40) and VDPPsmall vessels (median = 52%), as well as between VDPPall vessels (median = 58%), and similar correlation between CAR-THRR and VDP-WIsmall (median = 49.5%) and between VDP-WIall (median = 55%). CONCLUSION: The significant correlation between impaired cerebrovascular reactivity and retinal vessel density in patients with ICA stenosis suggests a common mechanism of action. We propose that the combined use of these diagnostic tools (TCD and OCTA) helps to better identify patients with increased ischemic or other cerebrovascular risks.