Pioneering Study Important for Expectant Mothers

SriniVas Sadda, MD

President & Chief Scientific Officer

February 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Vision is precious to all, and at Doheny-UCLA, the scope of our work means we come into contact with patients at every life stage. The very youngest patients are brought to us for treatment of retinopathy of prematurity, while many senior patients come to us as they struggle with symptoms of macular degeneration. In early adulthood and midlife, patients present with a range of other vision-limiting challenges. We are fortunate that our diverse and accomplished physicians are invested in defining the cutting-edge of treatment options.

It is gratifying to report to you that Doheny remains at the forefront of research for women with eye conditions that may develop or worsen during pregnancy. In women with diabetes, for example, pregnancy may accelerate damage to small retinal blood vessels that can result in severe vision loss during the second and third trimesters. Identification of early changes to the blood vessels may offer new avenues to combat these abnormalities and prevent vision loss.

For decades, doctors treating women with diabetes and/or high blood pressure sought to monitor how the blood vessels in the retina or deeper layers of the eye change during the course of pregnancy. Studying the circulation of the eye in detail, however, would require injecting dye to trace blood flow; but these dyes may not be safe for pregnant women or their growing babies. At Doheny-UCLA, using non-invasive OCT angiography, Dr. Irena Tsui has led a pioneering study evaluating changes that may occur in the retinal capillary circulation during pregnancy and immediately after delivery.

The results of Dr. Tsui’s study, conducted in collaboration with the Department of Obstetrics at UC San Francisco, demonstrate that retinal vessels can significantly dilate during pregnancy. These changes in flow may help predict which patients will develop subsequent vision or systemic problems, though this will need to be evaluated in future studies.

We hope that research such as that being conducted by Dr. Tsui will allow better monitoring and care of women during pregnancy.

It is with deep gratitude for the degree of commitment of both our highly engaged faculty and our steadfast supporters that Doheny continues to lead vision research for patients – of all ages – that need it most.

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