Aortic distensibility and retinal arteriolar narrowing: The multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis

Ning Cheung, A. Richey Sharrett, Ronald Klein, Michael H. Criqui, F. M.Amirul Islam, Katarzyna J. Macura, Mary Frances Cotch, Barbara E.K. Klein, Tien Y. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Increased aortic stiffness and retinal arteriolar narrowing are subclinical vascular effects of chronic hypertension and predict future cardiovascular events. The relationship between these 2 vascular measures is uncertain and is examined in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. This cross-sectional analysis involves 3425 participants (aged 45 to 85 years) free of clinical cardiovascular disease. Retinal vascular caliber was quantified from digital retinal photographs using standardized protocols. Aortic distensibility was determined from chest MRI. After controlling for age, squared age, gender, race, study center, height, weight, heart rate, cigarette smoking, past and current systolic blood pressure, use of antihypertensive medications, diabetes, fasting glucose, lipid profile, and C-reactive protein, reduced aortic distensibility (first versus fourth distensibility quartile) was associated with increased odds of retinal arteriolar narrowing (odds ratio: 1.72; 95% CI: 1.15 to 2.58, comparing lowest to highest quartile of arteriolar caliber). Further adjustments for atherosclerotic measures (carotid intima-media thickness, coronary calcium score, and ankle brachial index) had minimal impact on this association (odds ratio: 1.70; 95% CI: 1.13 to 2.55). Reduced aortic distensibility was not associated with retinal venular caliber. We conclude that increased aortic stiffness is associated with retinal arteriolar narrowing, independent of measured blood pressure levels and vascular risk factors. These data suggest that changes in the microvasculature may play a role linking aortic stiffness with clinical cardiovascular events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-622
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Arterial compliance
  • Imaging
  • Microcirculation
  • Population science
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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