The relationship between cerebral and retinal microbleeds in cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA): A pilot study

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Background: The standard in vivo diagnostic imaging technique for cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) is costly and thereby of limited utility for point-of-care diagnosis and monitoring of treatment efficacy. Recent recognition that retinal changes may reflect cerebral changes in neurodegenerative disease provides an ideal opportunity for development of accessible and cost-effective biomarkers for point-of-care use in the detection and monitoring of CAA. In this pilot study, we examined structural and angiographic retinal changes in CAA patients relative to a control group, and compared retinal and cerebral pathology in a group of CAA patients. Methods: We used spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) to image the retina and compared retinal microbleeds to both cerebral microbleeds and white matter hyperintensities (WMH) in CAA patients, as seen on MRI. We compared retinal angiographic changes, along with structural retinal neuronal layer changes in CAA patients and cognitively normal older adults, and examined the relationship between retinal and cerebral microbleeds and cognition in CAA patients. Results: We found a trend level correlation between retinal and cerebral microbleeds in CAA patients. Moreover, we found a significant correlation between retinal microbleeds and episodic memory performance in CAA patients. There were no significant group differences between CAA patients and cognitively normal older adults on retinal angiographic or structural measurements. Conclusion: Retinal microbleeds may reflect degree of cerebral microbleed burden in CAA. This picture was complicated by systolic hypertension in the CAA group, which is a confounding factor for the interpretation of these data. Our results stimulate motivation for pursuit of a more comprehensive prospective study to determine the feasibility of retinal biomarkers in CAA.

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Journal of the Neurological Sciences