Retinal Oximetry Discovers Novel Biomarkers in Retinal and Brain Diseases

Einar Stefánsson, Olof Birna Olafsdottir, Anna Bryndis Einarsdottir, Thorunn Scheving Eliasdottir, Thor Eysteinsson, Wouter Vehmeijer, Evelien Vandewalle, Toke Bek, Sveinn Hakon Hardarson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Biomarkers for several eye and brain diseases are reviewed, where retinal oximetry may help confirm diagnosis or measure severity of disease. These include diabetic retinopathy, central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and Alzheimer's disease.

Methods: Retinal oximetry is based on spectrophotometric fundus imaging and measures oxygen saturation in retinal arterioles and venules in a noninvasive, quick, safe manner. Retinal oximetry detects changes in oxygen metabolism, including those that result from ischemia or atrophy.

Results: In diabetic retinopathy, venous oxygen saturation increases and arteriovenous difference decreases. Both correlate with diabetic retinopathy severity as conventionally classified on fundus photographs. In CRVO, vein occlusion causes hypoxia, which is measured directly by retinal oximetry to confirm the diagnosis and measure severity. In both diseases, the change in oxygen levels is a consequence of disturbed blood flow with resulting tissue hypoxia and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production. In atrophic diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma, retinal oxygen consumption is reduced and this is detected by retinal oximetry. Retinal oximetry correlates with visual field damage and retinal atrophy. It is an objective metabolic measure of the degree of retinal atrophy. Finally, the retina is part of the central nervous system tissue and reflects central nervous system diseases. In Alzheimer's disease, a change in retinal oxygen metabolism has been discovered.

Conclusions: Retinal oximetry is a novel, noninvasive technology that opens the field of metabolic imaging of the retina. Biomarkers in metabolic, ischemic, and atrophic diseases of the retina and central nervous system have been discovered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)BIO227-BIO233
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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