BACKGROUND: To evaluate macular perfusion in patients with Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease.
METHODS: VHL patients with or without peripheral retinal hemangioblastomas (RHs) were consecutively enrolled. A group of healthy subjects served as controls. Macular perfusion was analyzed by means of OCT angiography (OCTA) in the superficial vascular plexus (SVP), and in the intermediate (ICP) and deep retinal capillary (DCP) plexuses. The following OCTA parameters were measured: Vessel Area Density (VAD), Vessel Length Fraction (VLF), Vessel Diameter Index (VDI) and Fractal Dimension (FD).
RESULTS: Sixty-three VHL patients (113 eyes) and 28 healthy controls (56 eyes) were enrolled. All OCTA quantitative parameters were reduced in VHL patients vs. controls, reaching statistical significance for VAD of the SVP (0.348 ± 0.07 vs. 0.369 ± 0.06, p = 0.0368) and VDI of all plexuses (p < 0.03 for all). No significant differences were detected between eyes without or with peripheral RHs.
CONCLUSIONS: Macular perfusion is reduced in VHL patients demonstrating retinal vessel changes that are independent of the presence of peripheral RHs. VHL gene mutations disrupt the hypoxia-induced (HIF)/vascular endothelium growth factors (VEGF) pathway and the Notch signaling, both essential for the normal retinal vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. Therefore, an anomalous generalized retinal vascular development may be hypothesized in VHL disease.