Microvasculopathy in the ocular fundus after bone marrow transplantation

Ann Intern Med. 1991 Dec 15;115(12):925-30. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-115-12-925.


Objective: To determine the incidence and time course of retinal and optic-disk ischemia after bone marrow transplantation and to describe the clinical, fluorescein-angiographic, and histologic findings in patients with these ischemic fundus lesions.

Design: Prospective cohort study; standardized clinical and ophthalmologic evaluation of all patients before bone marrow transplantation and 3, 6, and 12 months after transplantation (and when indicated).

Setting: University hospitals in Basel, Switzerland.

Patients: Consecutive patients (127) treated with allogeneic or autologous bone marrow grafts.

Main results: Thirteen of the 127 patients (10%; 95% Cl, 5% to 15%) had lesions of the ocular microcirculation. All patients had cotton-wool spots in the fundus of both eyes, and three patients also had bilateral optic-disk edema. Secondary changes included retinal hemorrhages and lipid deposits. The ischemic fundus lesions appeared during the first 6 months after transplantation and were reversible in 9 of the 13 patients. The lesions occurred only in patients who were treated with total body irradiation and were given cyclosporin A as prophylaxis for graft-versus-host disease.

Conclusions: Ischemic fundus lesions are a frequent complication after bone marrow transplantation. They were only observed in patients treated with total body irradiation and cyclosporin A. This combination of therapy appears to have an additive effect on the development of ocular and possibly generalized microvascular lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / pathology*
  • Child
  • Cyclosporine / adverse effects
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Graft vs Host Disease / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / etiology*
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optic Disk / blood supply
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinal Diseases / etiology
  • Retinal Diseases / pathology
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Whole-Body Irradiation / adverse effects


  • Cyclosporine