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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2005 May;46(5):1714-20.

Systemic hyperoxia and retinal vasomotor responses.

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Ecole d'optométrie, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada.



Several studies have investigated the changes in retinal vessel diameter during physiological stress or pathologic conditions. These studies were principally based on individual fundus photographs and as such did not allow the evaluation of vessel dynamics over time. The research objective was to detail the time course and amplitude changes in the diameter of arteries and veins across all retinal quadrants, during and after hyperoxic vascular stress.


The dynamics of changes in retinal vessel diameter were quantified with a retinal vessel analyzer, which digitizes fundus images in real time and simultaneously quantifies vessel diameter. The arterial and venous diameters within one disc diameter of the optic nerve head in each quadrant were studied. Twenty young adults participated in this study in which the vessel diameters were measured during successive phases of breathing either room air or pure oxygen. The oxygen saturation level (SaO(2)), end-tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO(2)), pulse rate (PR), respiratory rate (RR), and blood pressure (BP) were also monitored throughout testing.


Breathing 100% O(2) caused an increase in SaO(2) and a decrease in the EtCO(2). All other systemic parameters measured (PR, RR, BP, and ocular perfusion pressure [OPP]) remained unchanged. However, the retinal veins and arteries constricted by approximately 14% and approximately 9% respectively, in all retinal quadrants. After experimental hyperoxia, inhalation of room air was associated with a progressive increase in the caliber of vessels toward their pretest size. The amplitude and overall profile of vessel reactivity to and recovery from hyperoxia was the same across retinal quadrants.


These data indicate that, during systemic hyperoxic stress, the retinal vessels change in caliber uniformly across retinal quadrants in healthy young adults. This type of physiological vascular provocation could be used to investigate the quality of vascular regulation during aging and in vascular diseases of the eye.

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