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Original Investigation
July 5, 2018

Association Between the Cilioretinal Artery and Choroidal Neovascularization in Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Secondary Analysis From the Age-Related Eye Disease Study

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of California, Davis, Sacramento
  • 2George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(9):1008-1015. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.2650
Key Points

Question  Is there a hemodynamic contribution from the retinal vasculature in the pathogenesis of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) in age-related macular degeneration?

Findings  In this secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial, eyes with a cilioretinal artery were associated with a lower CNV prevalence, lower age-related macular degeneration severity score, and lower 5-year CNV incidence; but there was no definitive association identified with the prevalence or incidence of geographic atrophy involving the center of the macula.

Meaning  The cilioretinal artery may be protective against the development of CNV; this association suggests a possible hemodynamic contribution to neovascular age-related macular degeneration pathogenesis.


Importance  A hemodynamic role in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been proposed, but to our knowledge, an association between retinal vasculature and late AMD has not been investigated.

Objective  To determine whether the presence and location of a cilioretinal artery may be associated with the risk of late AMD in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective analysis of prospective, randomized clinical trial data from 3647 AREDS participants. Fundus photographs of AREDS participants were reviewed by 2 masked graders for the presence or absence of a cilioretinal artery and whether any branch extended within 500 μm of the central macula. Multivariate regressions were used to determine the association of the cilioretinal artery and vessel location, adjusted for age, sex, and smoking status, with the prevalence of choroidal neovascularization (CNV) or central geographic atrophy (CGA) and AMD severity score for eyes at randomization and progression at 5 years.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Association of cilioretinal artery with prevalence and 5-year incidence of CNV or CGA.

Results  Among AREDS participants analyzed, mean (SD) age was 69.0 (5.0) years, with 56.3% female, 46.6% former smokers, and 6.9% current smokers. A total of 26.9% of patients had a cilioretinal artery in 1 eye, and 8.4% had the vessel bilaterally. At randomization, eyes with a cilioretinal artery had a lower prevalence of CNV (5.0% vs 7.6%; OR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.51-0.85; P = .001) but no difference in CGA (1.1% vs 0.8%; OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 0.76-2.32; P = .31). In eyes without late AMD, those with a cilioretinal artery also had a lower mean (SD) AMD severity score (3.00 [2.35] vs 3.19 [2.40]; P = .02). At 5 years, eyes at risk with a cilioretinal artery had lower rates of progression to CNV (4.1% vs 5.5%; OR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.56-1.00; P = .05) but no difference in developing CGA (2.2% vs 2.7%; OR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.56-1.23; P = .35) or change in AMD severity score (0.65 [1.55] vs 0.73 [1.70]; P = .11). In patients with a unilateral cilioretinal artery, eyes with the vessel showed a lower prevalence of CNV than fellow eyes (4.7% vs 7.2%; P = .01).

Conclusions and Relevance  The presence of a cilioretinal artery is associated with a lower risk of developing CNV, but not CGA, suggesting a possible retinal hemodynamic contribution to the pathogenesis of neovascular AMD.

Trial Registration  ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00000145