Advanced Coats' disease

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 1991;89:371-476.


Advanced Coats' disease and retinoblastoma can both present with the triad of a retinal detachment, the appearance of a subretinal mass, and dilated retinal vessels. Thus, even the most experienced observer may not be able to differentiate these entities on ophthalmoscopic findings alone. Coats' disease is the most common reason for which eyes are enucleated with the misdiagnosis of retinoblastoma. Ultrasonography is the auxiliary diagnostic test most easily incorporated into the clinical examination, and can be utilized repeatedly without biologic tissue hazard. Ultrasonically identifiable features allowing differentiation between Coats' disease and retinoblastoma include the topography and character of retinal detachment and presence or absence of subretinal calcifications. Ultrasonography is of lesser use in poorly calcified retinoblastoma and in detecting optic nerve or extraocular extension in heavily calcified retinoblastoma. CT is perhaps the single most valuable test because of its ability to: (a) delineate intraocular morphology, (b) quantify subretinal densities, (c) identify vascularities within the subretinal space through the use of contrast enhancement, and (d) detected associated orbital or intracranial abnormalities. Optimal computed tomographic studies, however, require multiple thin slices both before and after contrast introduction and expose the child to low levels of radiation if studies are repeated periodically. MR imaging is valuable for its multiplanar imaging capabilities, its superior contrast resolution, and its ability to provide insights into the biochemical structure and composition of tissues. It is limited in its ability to detect calcium, which is the mainstay of ultrasonic and CT differentiation. Aqueous LDH and isoenzyme levels were not valuable in distinguishing between Coats' disease and retinoblastoma. The value of aqueous NSE levels in the differentiation of advanced Coats' disease and exophytic retinoblastoma deserves further study. Specimens from patients with intraocular hemorrhage should be viewed cautiously, since erythrocytes contain high levels of enolase. Analysis of subretinal aspirates is an extremely accurate method of confirming the diagnosis of Coats' disease. The key diagnostic findings are the presence of cholesterol crystals and pigment-laden macrophages and the absence of tumor cells on fresh preparations. The technique should be reserved for patients where retinoblastoma has been ruled out by all noninvasive means and massive subretinal drainage is anticipated. The natural progression in advanced Coats' disease is toward the development of a blind, painful eye. Spontaneous regression does rarely occur, and some eyes quietly progress to a phthisical state.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Exudates and Transudates
  • Eye Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Retinal Detachment / etiology
  • Retinal Diseases / complications
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Retinal Diseases / surgery
  • Retinoblastoma / diagnosis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography