Retinal vascular dynamics: A window for observing an irregular heartbeat. A case report

Rebekka Heitmar, Paulus Kirchhoff, A. D. Blann, Konstantin Kotliar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We aimed to characterize several aspects of retinal vascular dynamics in a patient with arrythmia in order to elicit additional diagnostic information on microvascular dysfunction. Methods: A 68-year-old male patient with arrythmia and an age- and gender-matched control subject underwent ocular examination including dynamic retinal vessel assessment with flicker light provocation. Retinal vessel diameters were measured continuously following a standard protocol (IMEDOS Systems, Jena, Germany). The data were evaluated using methods of signal analysis. Results: Retinal vessel response following flicker provocation as well as local structural and functional behavior of retinal vessels were comparable between both individuals. The arrhythmia case demonstrated irregular arterial and venous heart rate (HR) pulsation with an average frequency of 1 Hz. Moreover, the case showed a higher magnitude and larger periods of low-frequency retinal vessel oscillations as well as lower periodicity of both HR pulsations and low-frequency vasomotions. Conclusions: Besides numerical examination of irregular HR pulsations in case of arrhythmia, from the direct noninvasive assessment of retinal vessel dynamics one can derive more detailed information on microvascular function including the whole spectrum of retinal arterial and venous pulsations and vasomotions. This may have implications for health screening not limited to atrial fibrillation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12844
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Early online date19 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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