The adverse long-term consequences following traumatic brain injury are poorly understood, particularly on the cerebral microvasculature. Retinal vessels are a surrogate marker of cerebral vascular changes. We therefore aimed to examine the cross-sectional association between serious head injury or being knocked unconscious, and/or concussion and retinal microvascular signs, specifically, mean retinal arteriolar and venular calibre, in older adults after accounting for potential confounders. This cohort study involved 2,624 adults with mean age of 66.9 (±9.1) years who self-reported head injury and concussion parameters, and had gradable retinal photographs. Face-to-face interviews with trained interviewers allowed participants to report prior serious head injury or being knocked unconscious, and/or a previous diagnosis of concussion by a medical professional. Fundus photographs were taken and retinal vascular calibre measured using computer-assisted techniques and summarized. There were 25.9%, 15.3% and 10.1% who reported a prior serious head injury or being "knocked unconscious", concussion, and both, respectively. Participants in the first group compared to non-injured participants had significantly wider (~2 μm) mean retinal venular calibre (p = 0.02), after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, body mass index, mean arterial blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and fellow vessel calibre. No significant associations were observed in people reporting medically diagnosed concussion or with mean retinal arteriolar calibre. Our exploratory study suggests that head injury is independently associated with wider retinal venular caliber. These findings warrant further investigation in longitudinal cohort studies.
PMID: 29995951 [PubMed - in process]