Kotliar, KE; Mücke, B; Vilser, W; Schilling, R; Lanzl, IM
Effect of aging on retinal artery blood column diameter measured along the vessel axis.
PURPOSE: To determine whether retinal branch arteries of healthy persons in different age groups show different longitudinal vessel profiles at baseline and during dynamic reaction to flicker stimulation. METHODS: Thirty-three healthy subjects (age groups: 21-27 years, 40-59 years, and 60-85 years) were examined with the use of a retinal vessel analyzer. A monochromatic flicker of 12.5 Hz was applied for 60 seconds. Arterial diameters were measured in vessel segments of 1 mm in length to obtain the longitudinal vessel profile. Differences in amplitude and frequency of arterial width changes were characterized by the parameter spectral edge frequency (SEF). RESULTS: SEF was significantly different between the young group and the senior group in each phase of the arterial reaction to flicker (baseline, dilation, constriction, relaxation; P< 0.05; Mann-Whitney U test). No significant difference within any age group was found in any phase of the arterial reaction. No significant difference between the middle-aged and either young or elderly subjects was found at baseline. However, after stimulation, the middle-aged group displayed a significant difference compared with the young group, with values resembling those of the elderly group. CONCLUSIONS: In healthy elderly subjects, retinal arteries assumed a significantly less regular longitudinal vessel profile than those of young subjects. Middle-aged subjects assumed a more irregular profile only in the stimulated states of dilation, constriction, and relaxation. Early age-related changes in vessel profile are noted only after metabolic demand. These changes might be a cause for impaired blood flow and blood-vessel wall interaction.