Central Retinal Artery Occlusion


Central Retinal Artery Occlusion, CRAO, Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion, BRAO, Acute Retinal Ischemia

  • Definitions
  1. Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)
    1. Central Retinal artery is occluded affecting all visual fields
  2. Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion (BRAO)
    1. Branches of central Retinal artery are occluded, with segmental Vision Loss
  1. See Transient Ischemic Attack
  2. Cholesterol emboli
  3. Thrombotic emboli
  4. Vasculitis
  5. Hypoperfusion
    1. Hemodialysis
    2. Severe shock
    3. Nocturnal artery Hypotension (awake with Vision Loss)
      1. Associated with antihypertensives taken near bedtime
  • Symptoms
  1. See Transient Monocular Blindness (Amaurosis Fugax)
  2. Painless Acute Vision Loss
    1. More than half of patients have only hand motion and light perception
  3. May be associated with other focal neurologic deficits
    1. See Transient Ischemic Attack
    2. Affects ipsilateral Carotid Artery circulation
  • Signs
  1. Relative Afferent Pupillary Defect
    1. Pupil dilated with slow reaction
  2. Fundoscopic exam
    1. Retina appears pale-gray due to Retinal edema
    2. Macula with cherry-red spot on white-yellow background
    3. Constricted arterioles
    4. Box-Carring of Retinal vessels
      1. Retinal vessels with interrupted columns of blood appear as train box cars
    5. Hollenhorst Plaques (emboli)
      1. "Glistening orange yellow flakes"
      2. Represent fragmented emboli at arteriole bifurcation
  3. Neck exam
    1. Carotid Bruit
  • Differential Diagnosis
  • Imaging
  • Obtain after acute stabilization (see management below)
  1. See Transient Ischemic Attack
  2. Evaluate as Transient Ischemic Attack or CVA (depending on deficits and timing)
    1. MRI Brain with Diffusion Weighted Imaging (CT misses "TIA" lesions) AND
    2. Evaluate Carotid Arteries: Carotid Ultrasound or Head and Neck CT Angiogram or MR Angiogram
  • Management
  1. Immediate Ophthalmology Consultation without delay
    1. Irreversible damage begins in the first 2 hours
  2. Lower Intraocular Pressure or dislodge Occlusion
    1. Lie patient supine with both Eyelids closed
    2. Ballot the eye: Apply intermittent pressure to eyeball
      1. Massage the globe with index fingers or each hand, then release suddenly
      2. Apply pressure in repeated cycles of 5-10 seconds on and 5 seconds off
      3. Perform for 20 cycles total or from 5-30 minutes
      4. Goal is to dislodge a thrombus
    3. Consider Hypercarbia
      1. Patient rebreathes into a paper bag for 10 minutes of each hour OR
      2. Inhalation of mix of 5% carbon dioxide and 95% oxygen OR
    4. Consider Aqueous Humor production strategies
      1. Mannitol 1 g/kg IV for 1 dose AND Acetazolamide 500 mg IV for 1 dose OR
      2. Acetazolamide 500 mg orally for 1 dose
    5. Consider hyperbaric oxygen
      1. Murphy-Lavole (2012) Undersea Hyperb Med 39(5): 943-53 +PMID: 23045923 [PubMed]
    6. Other measures that have been used (discuss with ophthalmology)
      1. Timolol maleate (0.5%) one drop topically
      2. Pilocarpine drops to eye
      3. Oral Nitroglycerin
      4. Pentoxifylline (Trental)
      5. Laser arteriotomy
      6. Embolectomy
    7. Measures to avoid (low efficacy or high risk of adverse effects)
      1. Thrombolysis is not recommended
  3. Cerebrovascular Management
    1. Approach as Transient Ischemic Attack
  • Prognosis
  1. Vision Loss risk increases after 90 minutes (and esp. after 4 hours) of arterial Occlusion
  2. Spontaneous visual improvement may occur in first 7 days after onset