Central retinal artery occlusion. Retinal survival time

Exp Eye Res. 2004 Mar;78(3):723-36. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4835(03)00214-8.


Purpose: To investigate the retinal survival time following central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO).

Methods: In 38 elderly, atherosclerotic and hypertensive rhesus monkeys, transient CRAO (varying from 97 to 240 min) was produced by temporarily clamping the CRA at its site of entry into the optic nerve. Stereoscopic color fundus photography, fluorescein fundus angiography, electroretinography (ERG), and visual evoked potential (VEP) recording were performed before and during CRA clamping, after unclamping, and serially thereafter. After unclamping of the CRA, the animals were followed for variable lengths of time (median duration 8.14 weeks). Finally, the eyes and optic nerves were examined histologically. The data on ERG changes were analyzed in the following four time frames: (1) baseline before CRA clamping, (2) during CRA clamping, (3) immediately after unclamping, and (4) at the end of follow-up. Duration of CRAO was divided into four groups: 97, 105-120, 150-165, and > or = 180 min.

Results: A 'negative ERG' appeared during CRA clamping. With removal of the CRA clamp, there was b-wave recovery, with differential rates of recovery of ERG-eyes with shorter CRAO recovered sooner than those with longer occlusion. On removal of clamp, recovery was seen in scotopic 24 dB b-wave, photopic 0 dB single flash b-wave and 30 Hz flicker, with the b/a ratio of the combined rod and cone response and selective rod response showing statistically significant differences amongst the shorter and longer periods of CRAO. A delayed normalization of the depressed b/a ratio immediately after CRA reperfusion may indicate high-grade ischemic damage. At the final follow-up test session, no clear-cut derangement of any ERG parameter was seen for any group, with subtotal b-wave amplitude recovery for all groups. Longer CRAO produced incomplete VEP recovery. On histology, in the macular retina, eyes with CRAO for 97 min showed practically no damage, but duration of CRAO was found to be significantly associated with the amount of damage in the ganglion cell layer (p = 0.009) and inner nuclear layer (p = 0.017). Outer nuclear and plexiform layers and photoreceptors showed no damage at all with CRAO. There was no significant association of the ERG measures and histologic changes with any of the residual retinal circulation variables.

Conclusions: Our electrophysiologic, histopathologic and morphometric studies showed that the retina of old, atherosclerotic, hypertensive rhesus monkeys suffers no detectable damage with CRAO of 97 min but above that level, the longer the CRAO, the more extensive the irreversible damage. The study suggests that CRAO lasting for about 240 min results in massive irreversible retinal damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroretinography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Optic Nerve / pathology
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / complications
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / pathology*
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / physiopathology
  • Retinal Vessels / physiopathology
  • Time Factors