Acta Diabetologica

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 469–477 | Cite as

Optical coherence tomography angiography discerns preclinical diabetic retinopathy in eyes of patients with type 2 diabetes without clinical diabetic retinopathy

  • Dan Cao
  • Dawei Yang
  • Zhongning Huang
  • Yunkao Zeng
  • Jun Wang
  • Yunyan Hu
  • Liang Zhang
Original Article



To investigate changes in retinal vascular plexuses and choriocapillaris in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) without diabetic retinopathy (DR) and healthy controls using optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA).


A total of 71 DM2 and 67 healthy control subjects were included. All subjects underwent OCTA examination (RTVue-XR Avanti; Optovue, Fremont, CA, USA). Average vessel density in superficial capillary plexus (SCP), deep capillary plexus (DCP) and choriocapillaris, parafoveal vessel density in SCP and DCP, FAZ area (mm2) in SCP, microaneurysms and capillary nonperfusion were taken into analysis.


Parafoveal vessel density in both SCP and DCP decreased in the eyes without clinical DR compared to normal controls (p < 0.001). Diabetic patients with no signs of DR also had a significant reduction in average vessel density of SCP, DCP and choriocapillaris (p < 0.001, p < 0.001 and p = 0.006, respectively). No significant difference was found in FAZ area of SCP between DM2 eyes and healthy controls (p = 0.253). The average vessel density of SCP and DCP is not correlated with HbA1c or serum creatinine in DM2 patients. Microaneurysms seen in OCTA but not in fundus examination were found in 8 out of the 71 (11.3%) diabetic eyes, and capillary nonperfusion was noted in 18 of 71 diabetic eyes.


We demonstrated that OCTA can identify preclinical DR before the manifestation of clinically apparent retinopathy in diabetic eyes. DM2 patients without DR have SCP, DCP and choriocapillaris impairment. Our results suggested that OCTA might be a promising tool for regular screening of diabetic eyes for DR.


Optical coherence tomography angiography Diabetic retinopathy Type 2 diabetes Microaneurysm 



This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Number 81500737) and Guangzhou Science and Technology Program (Grant Number 201607010343).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Cao
    • 1
  • Dawei Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhongning Huang
    • 1
  • Yunkao Zeng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jun Wang
    • 1
  • Yunyan Hu
    • 1
  • Liang Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ophthalmology, Guangdong General HospitalGuangdong Academy of Medical SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Shantou University Medical CollegeShantouChina

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