Diabetic retinopathy and coronary artery disease from the cardiac surgeon's perspective

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in diabetics; therefore, the main purpose of managing coronary artery disease in diabetics should be to lengthen life expectancy. Recent evidence demonstrates that the severity of diabetic retinopathy is associated with a graded, increased risk of death from coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction.

Recently, we found that the survival benefit of coronary artery bypass grafting over percutaneous coronary intervention is more apparent in patients with diabetic retinopathy than in diabetic patients without it. In this article, we review published studies evaluating the association between diabetic retinopathy and coronary artery disease, and we propose that coronary artery bypass surgery should be the first choice for revascularization of patients with diabetic retinopathy, especially in its early stage.

Furthermore, coronary artery disease complicating diabetic retinopathy is often underdiagnosed, and all diabetic retinopathy patients should undergo screening for coronary artery disease followed by coronary artery bypass grafting. Future studies will probably comprise carefully performed cost-effective analyses of treatment effectiveness and prospective randomized studies comparing survival after coronary artery bypass grafting with that of survival after percutaneous coronary intervention, stratified by the stage of retinopathy.

Ohno T., Takamoto S., Motomura N. Diabetic retinopathy and coronary artery disease from the cardiac surgeon's perspective. Ann Thorac Surg. 2008;85(2):681-9.
doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2007.07.066.