Aggressive systematic treatment for central retinal artery occlusion

Am J Ophthalmol. 1999 Dec;128(6):733-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(99)00359-1.


Purpose: To report the efficacy of an aggressive systematic regimen for the treatment of acute nonarteritic central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO).

Methods: Eleven patients who had unilateral CRAO with symptoms of fewer than 48 hours' duration were treated with an aggressive stepwise systematic regimen until retinal circulation improved or until all the treatment steps were performed. Five patients with unilateral CRAO and symptoms of fewer than 48 hours' duration were treated in the same institution in an arbitrary nonsystematic manner. The therapeutic steps of the aggressive treatment included ocular massage, sublingual isosorbide dinitrate, intravenous acetazolamide, intravenous mannitol or oral glycerol, anterior chamber paracentesis, intravenous methylprednisolone followed by streptokinase, and retrobulbar tolazoline. After each step, retinal flow was evaluated by three-mirror contact lens. The nonsystematic treatment was arbitrary and included one or several of the above. Visual acuity and complete eye examination data were recorded before and after treatment.

Results: Visual acuity and retinal arterial supply were improved in eight (73%) of the 11 patients treated in the stepwise systematic manner. All eight patients in whom visual acuity improved had symptoms for fewer than 12 hours, and the presumed cause was either platelet-derived or cholesterol embolus from atheroma or the patients had glaucoma. Patients in whom visual acuity did not improve had CRAO that was attributed to calcified emboli or primary antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and had symptoms more than 12 hours before treatment. Visual acuity did not improve in all five patients with the nonsystematic treatment regardless of the presumed cause or duration of the occlusion. The success of the treatment in the systematic treatment group was statistically significantly better compared with the outcome of the nonsystematic treated group (Fischer exact test, P = .01).

Conclusions: In the treatment of CRAO, an aggressive systematic regimen including medical and mechanical means may reestablish retinal circulation and improve visual outcome. The cause of arterial occlusion, the nature of occlusive emboli, and the duration of retinal ischemia may determine the visual outcome, but a larger series is warranted to verify the effectiveness of the treatment and the prognostic factors.

MeSH terms

  • Acetazolamide / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Flow Velocity
  • Female
  • Glycerol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Isosorbide Dinitrate / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mannitol / therapeutic use
  • Massage
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Artery / physiopathology
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / complications
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / physiopathology
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / therapy*
  • Streptokinase / therapeutic use
  • Tolazoline / therapeutic use
  • Visual Acuity


  • Mannitol
  • Tolazoline
  • Streptokinase
  • Isosorbide Dinitrate
  • Acetazolamide
  • Glycerol
  • Methylprednisolone