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Arterial hypertension and retinal layer thickness: the Beijing Eye Study.

PURPOSE: To investigate relationships between blood pressure and the thickness of single retinal layers in the macula.

METHODS: Participants of the population-based Beijing Eye Study, free of retinal or optic nerve disease, underwent medical and ophthalmological examinations including optical coherence tomographic examination of the macula. Applying a multiple-surface segmentation solution, we automatically segmented the retina into its various layers.

RESULTS: The study included 2237 participants (mean age 61.8±8.4 years, range 50-93 years). Mean thicknesses of the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL), ganglion cell layer (GCL), inner plexiform layer, inner nuclear layer (INL), outer plexiform layer, outer nuclear layer/external limiting membrane, ellipsoid zone, photoreceptor outer segments (POS) and retinal pigment epithelium-Bruch membrane were 31.1±2.3 µm, 39.7±3.5 µm, 38.4±3.3 µm, 34.8±2.0 µm, 28.1±3.0 µm, 79.2±7.3 µm, 22.9±0.6 µm, 19.2±3.3 µm and 20.7±1.4 µm, respectively. In multivariable analysis, higher systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were associated with thinner GCL and thicker INL, after adjusting for age, sex and axial length (all p<0.0056). Higher SBP was additionally associated with thinner POS and higher DBP with thinner RNFL. For an elevation of SBP/DBP by 10 mm Hg, the RNFL, GCL, INL and POS changed by 2.0, 3.0, 1.5 and 2.0 µm, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Thickness of RNFL, GCL and POS was inversely and INL thickness was positively associated with higher blood pressure, while the thickness of the other retinal layers was not significantly correlated with blood pressure. The findings may be helpful for refinement of the morphometric detection of retinal diseases.

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