Experimental retinal detachment causes widespread and multilayered degeneration in rabbit retina

J Neurocytol. 2001 May;30(5):379-90. doi: 10.1023/a:1015061525353.


Retinal detachment remains one of the most frequent causes of visual impairment in humans, even after ophthalmoscopically successful retinal reattachment. This study was aimed at monitoring (ultra-) structural alterations of retinae of rabbits after experimental detachment. A surgical procedure was used to produce local retinal detachments in rabbit eyes similar to the typical lesions in human patients. At various periods after detachment, the detached retinal area as well as neighbouring attached regions were studied by light and electron microscopy. In addition to the well-known degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the detached retina, the following progressive alterations were observed, (i) in both the detached and the attached regions, an incomplete but severe loss of ganglion cell axons occurs; (ii) there is considerable ganglion cell death, particularly in the detached area; (iii) even in the attached retina distant from the detachment, small adherent groups of photoreceptor cells degenerate; (iv) these photoreceptor cells degenerate in an atypical sequence, with severely destructed somata and inner segments but well-maintained outer segments; and (v) the severe loss of retinal neurons is not accompanied by any significant loss of Müller (glial) cells. It is noteworthy that the described progressive (and probably irreparable) retinal destructions occur also in the attached retina, and may account for visual impairment in strikingly large areas of the visual field, even after retinal reattachment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Retinal Detachment / pathology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure