Cilioretinal Arteries Alter Vessel Densities

Even in healthy eyes, OCT-A imaging shows the vascular anomaly can influence anatomical changes.

In healthy eyes, investigators observed that cilioretinal arteries (CRA) — a common anomaly of retinal circulation — influence macular and peripapillary vessel densities as well as the optic nerve head, according to a retrospective study published in Retina.

Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A) imaging and ophthalmic examination data collected at the University of Muenster Medical Center in Germany from healthy participants (N=83) were retrospectively analyzed for this study.

More than a third of study participants (37.3%) had CRA, all of which presented from the temporal margin of the optic disc. The vessels were small (48%), medium (38%), or large (16%). Stratified by CRA status, participants with and without were aged median 51 (interquartile range [IQR], 31-56) and 48 (IQR, 30-57) years and 29.03% and 36.54% were women, respectively.

Investigators observed significantly higher vessel densities among eyes with CRA in the whole en face over the nerve (median, 54.30% vs 50.31%; P <.001), the peripapillary region (median, 60.30% vs 52.90%; P <.001), temporal region (median, 61.60% vs 51.00%; P <.001), and nasal region (median, 59.90% vs 55.00%; P =.002) and significantly decreased vessel densities within the inside disc region (median, 47.40% vs 51.95%; P =.05).

Vessel pressures in the macular superficial capillary plexus whole en face were significantly increased among eyes with CRA (median, 48.20% vs 46.95%; P =.025). No group differences were observed for vessel pressures in the macular deep capillary plexus whole en-face among the CRA (median, 50.80%; IQR, 48.50%-53.60%) compared with no CRA (median, 51.65%; IQR, 49.15%-54.60%; P =.454) eyes.

This study was limited by its small sample size and by the choice to exclude patients who had relevant ocular or systemic pathologies. It remains unclear whether these observations may differ among the excluded patient populations.

The study authors concluded that many vessel densities were significantly altered by the presence of CRA among patients with healthy eyes.

Disclosure: Some study authors declared affiliations with the biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.  


Diener R, Leclaire MD, Eckardt F, et al. Cilioretinal arteries influence optic nerve head, peripapillary and macular vessel densities in healthy eyes – an optical coherence tomography angiography study. Retina. Published online May 3, 2021. doi:10.1097/IAE.0000000000003208