A project led by the University of Edinburgh is investigating a method that could detect heart disease by simply scanning blood vessels in the eye.
Patients will have high-definition images taken of their retina as part of the project which would detect changes in blood vessel width or unusually branched vessels, both of which are indicators for heart disease.
This method would spare patients invasive procedures such as biopsies or angiograms, in which catheters are used to identify indicators that are linked to heart disease.
“We know that problems in the eye are linked to conditions such as diabetes and that abnormalities in the eyes’ blood vessels can also indicate vascular problems in the brain”, said Dr Tom MacGillivray, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.
“If we can identify early problems in the blood vessels in the eyes we might potentially pinpoint signs of heart disease. This could help identify people who would benefit from early lifestyle changes and preventative therapies.”
More than 1,000 patients who are suspected to have heart disease will participate in the project.
The project will also be part of a wider study with a total of 4,000 participating patients and aims to assess whether a CT scan, which is less invasive than currently used methods, is more efficient and effective in detecting heart disease.
The project is led by the University of Edinburgh’s Clinical Research Imaging Centre (CRIC) and is a collaborative initiative with the University of Dundee, NHS Lothian’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavillion, NHS Tayside’s Ninewells Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.