Retinal imaging for the assessment of stroke risk: a systematic review

Z Girach, A Sarian, C Maldonado-García, N Ravikumar, PI Sergouniotis, PM Rothwell, AF Frangi, TH Julian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Stroke is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Retinal imaging allows non-invasive assessment of the microvasculature. Consequently, retinal imaging is a technology which is garnering increasing attention as a means of assessing cardiovascular health and stroke risk. Methods: A biomedical literature search was performed to identify prospective studies that assess the role of retinal imaging derived biomarkers as indicators of stroke risk. Results: Twenty-four studies were included in this systematic review. The available evidence suggests that wider retinal venules, lower fractal dimension, increased arteriolar tortuosity, presence of retinopathy, and presence of retinal emboli are associated with increased likelihood of stroke. There is weaker evidence to suggest that narrower arterioles and the presence of individual retinopathy traits such as microaneurysms and arteriovenous nicking indicate increased stroke risk. Our review identified three models utilizing artificial intelligence algorithms for the analysis of retinal images to predict stroke. Two of these focused on fundus photographs, whilst one also utilized optical coherence tomography (OCT) technology images. The constructed models performed similarly to conventional risk scores but did not significantly exceed their performance. Only two studies identified in this review used OCT imaging, despite the higher dimensionality of this data. Conclusion: Whilst there is strong evidence that retinal imaging features can be used to indicate stroke risk, there is currently no predictive model which significantly outperforms conventional risk scores. To develop clinically useful tools, future research should focus on utilization of deep learning algorithms, validation in external cohorts, and analysis of OCT images.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurology
Early online date2 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Artificial intelligence
  • Biomarkers
  • Deep learning
  • Prediction
  • Retina
  • Stroke


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