Ocular findings as predictors of carotid artery occlusive disease: is carotid imaging justified?

J Vasc Surg. 2004 Aug;40(2):279-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2004.05.004.


Objectives: Hemispheric neurologic symptoms, amaurosis fugax, and Hollenhorst plaques at eye examination are standard indications for carotid imaging to identify carotid artery occlusive disease (CAOD). Previous reports have suggested that other ocular findings, such as retinal artery occlusion and anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, are associated with CAOD. However, the predictive value of ocular findings for the presence of CAOD is controversial. The purpose of this study was to define the predictive value of ocular symptoms and ophthalmologic examination in identifying significant CAOD.

Methods: Over 3 years 145 patients were referred for carotid imaging on the basis of ocular indications in 160 eyes. Forty patients were excluded because of concurrent non-ocular indications for carotid imaging, leaving 105 patients referred exclusively for ocular indications to evaluate. Ophthalmologic history and eye examination were correlated with carotid duplex ultrasound findings.

Results: Amaurosis fugax was associated with a positive scan in 20.0% of carotid arteries (P =.022). Hollenhorst plaques at fundoscopic examination were associated with a positive scan in 18.2% of carotid arteries (P =.02). Ocular findings exclusive of Hollenhorst plaques were particularly poor predictors of CAOD, inasmuch as only 1 of 64 arteries (1.6%) had significant ipsilateral internal carotid artery stenosis (P =.022). Venous stasis retinopathy was the only ocular finding other than Hollenhorst plaques with any predictive value (1 of 5 scans positive; positive predictive value, 20.0%).

Conclusions: Ocular symptoms and findings are poor predictors of CAOD. Amaurosis fugax, Hollenhorst plaques, and venous stasis retinopathy demonstrated moderate predictive value, whereas all other ocular findings demonstrated no predictive value in identifying CAOD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amaurosis Fugax / complications
  • Amaurosis Fugax / diagnosis
  • Carotid Stenosis / complications*
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Eye Diseases / complications*
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retinal Diseases / complications
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex