Altered Blood Vessel Responses in the Eye and Finger in Coronary Artery Disease

Rebekka Heitmar, Robert P. Cubbidge, Gregory Y.H. Lip, Doina Gherghel, Andrew D. Blann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE. Cardiac function, such as heart rate variability, is abnormal in coronary artery disease, but its relation with the function of ocular and nail-fold blood vessels is unknown. The hypothesis was that there is abnormal retinal and peripheral microvascular endothelial function compared with large blood vessel and cardiac function. Twenty-four patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and 30 healthy, age-and sex-matched control subjects were enrolled in the study. METHODS. Peripheral microcirculatory function was measured with continuous retinal vessel diameter assessment and nailfold capillaroscopy. Systemic vascular function was evaluated by 24-hour blood pressure, arterial stiffness, low (LF)-and high (HF)-frequency heart rate variability, ECG monitoring, and the plasma markers von Willebrand factor (vWf) and soluble E selectin. RESULTS. Peripheral nail-fold capillary (P = 0.009) and retinal vessel (average baseline corrected flicker response [BFR]; P = 0.034) responses and reaction time in response to flicker (P = 0.016) were significantly different in patients compared with controls. Furthermore, patients demonstrated higher arterial stiffness (P = 0.005), LF and HF heart rate variability (P = 0.004, P = 0.006), and vWf level (P = 0.044), but there was no difference in soluble E selectin level (P = 0.278). In the CAD patients, LF and HF heart rate variability both correlated with average BFR (r = 0.58, P = 0.004; r = -0.6, P = 0.003, respectively). There was no such relationship in the healthy controls. CONCLUSIONS. Microcirculatory abnormalities of the retina and nail-fold vessels are present in CAD. The two indices of heart rate variability correlated with an index of ocular vessel responses. The latter may be a surrogate marker of abnormal heart rate variability in CAD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6199-6205
Number of pages7
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


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