Quantitative assessment of early diabetic retinopathy using fractal analysis.
OBJECTIVE: Fractal analysis can quantify the geometric complexity of the retinal vascular branching pattern and may therefore offer a new method to quantify early diabetic microvascular damage. In this study, we examined the relationship between retinal fractal dimension and retinopathy in young individuals with type 1 diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 729 patients with type 1 diabetes (aged 12-20 years) who had seven-field stereoscopic retinal photographs taken of both eyes. From these photographs, retinopathy was graded according to the modified Airlie House classification, and fractal dimension was quantified using a computer-based program following a standardized protocol. RESULTS: In this study, 137 patients (18.8%) had diabetic retinopathy signs; of these, 105 had mild retinopathy. Median (interquartile range) retinal fractal dimension was 1.46214 (1.45023-1.47217). After adjustment for age, sex, diabetes duration, A1C, blood pressure, and total cholesterol, increasing retinal vascular fractal dimension was significantly associated with increasing odds of retinopathy (odds ratio 3.92 [95% CI 2.02-7.61] for fourth versus first quartile of fractal dimension). In multivariate analysis, each 0.01 increase in retinal vascular fractal dimension was associated with a nearly 40% increased odds of retinopathy (1.37 [1.21-1.56]). This association remained after additional adjustment for retinal vascular caliber. CONCLUSIONS: Greater retinal fractal dimension, representing increased geometric complexity of the retinal vasculature, is independently associated with early diabetic retinopathy signs in type 1 diabetes. Fractal analysis of fundus photographs may allow quantitative measurement of early diabetic microvascular damage.
Cheung, N; Donaghue, KC; Liew, G; Rogers, SL; Wang, JJ; Lim, S-W; Jenkins, AJ; Hsu, W; Li Lee, M; Wong, TY
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