Retinal vascular findings and penile cavernosal artery blood flow


Y. Kawanishi, Department of Urology, Takamatsu Red Cross Hospital, 4-1-3, Ban-cho, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan 760-0017.


Authors from Japan attempt to correlate retinal vascular changes with cavernosal arterial blood flow. They studied patients with erectile dysfunction, but excluded patients with previous pelvic surgery, pelvic injury or diabetes. They found that penile changes can be anticipated from retinal vascular changes seen on fundoscopy.


To assess the correlation between retinal vascular findings and penile cavernosal arterial blood flow, as it is probable that systemic atherosclerotic vascular disease is important in male erectile dysfunction (ED), and being systemic, it might be possible to evaluate the extent of atherosclerosis from retinal vascular findings.


The study included 75 patients with ED; any with a history of pelvic injury, pelvic surgery, or diabetes mellitus were excluded. All patients gave fully informed consent. Ocular fundus photographs were taken with an automatic-focus fundus camera under amydriatic conditions. Three ophthalmologists, unaware of the patients’ detailed data, evaluated the photographs using Hyman's classification to evaluate retinal vascular findings. Blood flow in the penile cavernosal artery was measured with colour Doppler ultrasonography, and the peak systolic velocity used as a haemodynamic variable. Correlations among the peak systolic velocity, retinal vascular findings and vascular risk factors (including hypertension, age, cigarette smoking, and hyperlipidaemia) were investigated using multivariate analysis.


Of the 75 patients, 72 (96%) had both right and left retinal vascular images of sufficient quality for evaluation; 37 were classified as normal and 35 as Grade I, while no patient was Grade II. From a logistic regression multivariate analysis, the peak systolic velocity was the only significant factor correlating with retinal vascular findings, with an odds ratio of 3.34. In contrast, hypertension, age, cigarette smoking and hyperlipidaemia did not correlate significantly with the retinal vascular findings. Similarly, the retinal vascular finding was the only significant factor correlating with the peak systolic velocity of cavernosal blood flow (odds ratio 3.28) and again hypertension, age, cigarette smoking and hyperlipidaemia were not significant factors.


These findings support the assumption that penile erectile function is one of the diseases of atherosclerosis, and emerges nearly simultaneously with retinal vascular disease. It is possible to predict penile arterial conditions in patients with ED from their retinal vascular findings. Thus, amydriatic fundoscopy, a simple practical examination, may be helpful for primary physicians in diagnosing and treating ED.