The fate of patients with retinal artery occlusion and Hollenhorst plaque

J Vasc Surg. 2007 Dec;46(6):1125-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2007.07.054. Epub 2007 Oct 22.


Objective: Ocular symptoms and signs often herald hemispheric neurological events associated with extracranial cerebrovascular disease. However, the presence of a Hollenhorst plaque (HP) or retinal artery occlusion (RAO) and the risk of stroke is unclear. The purpose of this study was to review the outcomes of all patients who presented with a HP or RAO at a single institution.

Methods: Between 2000 and 2005, the management and outcome of 130 consecutive patients with a diagnosis of HP, central RAO, or branch RAO (ICD-9 codes 362.30 to 362.33) were reviewed. Patients with transient monocular visual loss (amaurosis fugax), retinal venous occlusion, and other ocular pathologies were excluded. Electronic and hardcopy medical records were reviewed for demographic data, clinical variables, radiological, and noninvasive vascular lab testing. Duplex and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the carotid arteries were reviewed to confirm the presence of a lesion and quantify the degree of stenosis.

Results: During the study interval, 70 males and 60 females, with a mean age of 68 +/- 16 (+/-SD) years underwent ophthalmologic evaluation. Symptoms were present in 61% of patients and included eye pain, blurred vision, or atypical visual symptoms, while 39% were asymptomatic. Atherosclerotic risk factors in this population included the presence of hypertension (73%), diabetes (33%), hyperlipidemia (75%), and tobacco use (38%). A majority of patients underwent carotid interrogation via Duplex imaging (68%). Carotid bifurcation stenoses ipsilateral to the ocular findings were <30% in 68% of the patients, between 30 and 60% in 22% and >60% in only 8% of patients. Six patients with lesions greater than 60% went on to have either a carotid endarterectomy or carotid stenting. Follow-up data on this group ranged from 1 to 49 months (median, 22 months), with no stroke or transient ischemic attack identified. There were five deaths during follow-up; none related to stroke. Serial carotid Duplex examinations failed to identify progression of carotid stenoses in this group of patients. Overall survival was 94% at 36 months for this cohort.

Conclusion: The presence of a HP or RAO is associated with a low prevalence of extracranial cerebrovascular disease that requires intervention. Furthermore, in contradistinction to amaurosis fugax, these ocular findings are not associated with a high risk for hemispheric neurological events.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carotid Stenosis / complications*
  • Carotid Stenosis / mortality
  • Carotid Stenosis / pathology
  • Embolism, Cholesterol / complications*
  • Embolism, Cholesterol / mortality
  • Embolism, Cholesterol / pathology
  • Endarterectomy, Carotid
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / complications*
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / etiology
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / mortality
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stents
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / mortality
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / instrumentation