Association of retinal microvascular abnormalities and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders with optical coherence tomography angiography

Jiaqi Guo, Dan Zhang, Yan Gong, Jiang Liu, Jiong Zhang, Yitian Zhao

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) are autoimmune central nervous system diseases characterized by the immune system's abnormal attack on glial cells and neurons. Optic neuritis (ON) is one of the indicators of NMOSD, often starting unilaterally and potentially affecting both eyes later in the disease progression, leading to visual impairment. Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) has the potential to aid in the early diagnosis of NMOSD by examining ophthalmic imaging and may offer a window for disease prevention. Methods: In this study, we collected OCTA images from 22 NMOSD patients (44 images) and 25 healthy individuals (50 images) to investigate retinal microvascular changes in NMOSD. We employed effective retinal microvascular segmentation and foveal avascular zone (FAZ) segmentation techniques to extract key OCTA structures for biomarker analysis. A total of 12 microvascular features were extracted using specifically designed methods based on the segmentation results. The OCTA images of NMOSD patients were classified into two groups: optic neuritis (ON) and non-optic neuritis (non-ON). Each group was compared separately with a healthy control (HC) group. Results: Statistical analysis revealed that the non-ON group displayed shape changes in the deep layer of the retina, specifically in the FAZ. However, there were no significant microvascular differences between the non-ON group and the HC group. In contrast, the ON group exhibited microvascular degeneration in both superficial and deep retinal layers. Sub-regional analysis revealed that pathological variations predominantly occurred on the side affected by ON, particularly within the internal ring near the FAZ. Discussion: The findings of this study highlight the potential of OCTA in evaluating retinal microvascular changes associated with NMOSD. The shape alterations observed in the FAZ of the non-ON group suggest localized vascular abnormalities. In the ON group, microvascular degeneration in both superficial and deep retinal layers indicates more extensive vascular damage. Sub-regional analysis further emphasizes the impact of optic neuritis on pathological variations, particularly near the FAZ's internal ring. Conclusion: This study provides insights into the retinal microvascular changes associated with NMOSD using OCTA imaging. The identified biomarkers and observed alterations may contribute to the early diagnosis and monitoring of NMOSD, potentially offering a time window for intervention and prevention of disease progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1194661
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • deep learning
  • neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders
  • OCTA
  • retinal microvascular
  • segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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