Methods: We examined the relationship of fractal dimension and stroke mortality in a prospective, population-based cohort of 3143 participants aged 49 years or older. Fractal dimension was measured from digitized fundus photographs using a computer-automated method. Stroke mortality was documented from Australian National Death Index records. We defined reduced fractal dimension as values in the lowest quartile.
Results: Over 12 years, there were 132 (4.2%) stroke-related deaths. Stroke-related mortality was higher in participants with reduced fractal dimension (lowest quartile) compared with the highest quartile (7.7% versus 1.3%, P<0.01). After controlling for age, gender, smoking, blood pressure, history of stroke, and other factors, participants with reduced fractal dimension had higher stroke mortality (hazard ratio, 2.42 [95% CI, 1.15-5.07], lowest versus highest quartile). When modeled as a continuous variable, reduced fractal dimension was associated with increased stroke mortality (multivariable-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.26 [95% CI, 1.06-1.51], per SD decrease).
Conclusions: Reduced retinal vascular fractal dimension is independently associated with 12-year stroke mortality. Reduced fractal dimension may indicate cerebral tissue hypoxia and increased risk of stroke.
- retinal vessels