Acute retinal arterial ischemia

Michael Dattilo, Nancy J. Newman, Valérie Biousse


Acute retinal arterial ischemia, which includes transient monocular vision loss (TMVL), branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO), central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) and ophthalmic artery occlusion (OAO), is most commonly the consequence of an embolic phenomenon from the ipsilateral carotid artery, heart or aortic arch, leading to partial or complete occlusion of the central retinal artery (CRA) or its branches. Acute retinal arterial ischemia is the ocular equivalent of acute cerebral ischemia and is an ophthalmic and medical emergency. Patients with acute retinal arterial ischemia are at a high risk of having further vascular events, such as subsequent strokes and myocardial infarctions (MIs). Therefore, prompt diagnosis and urgent referral to appropriate specialists and centers is necessary for further work-up (such as brain magnetic resonance imaging with diffusion weighted imaging, vascular imaging, and cardiac monitoring and imaging) and potential treatment of an urgent etiology (e.g., carotid dissection or critical carotid artery stenosis). Since there are no proven, effective treatments to improve visual outcome following permanent retinal arterial ischemia (central or branch retinal artery occlusion), treatment must focus on secondary prevention measures to decrease the likelihood of subsequent ischemic events.