Cotton-wool spots (inner retinal ischemic spots) in malignant arterial hypertension

Ophthalmologica. 1989;198(4):197-215. doi: 10.1159/000309999.


We produced experimental renovascular malignant arterial hypertension by modified Goldblatt's procedures, in 60 rhesus monkeys. Hypertensive retinopathy was studied in detail (by ophthalmoscopy, and stereoscopic color fundus photography and fluorescein fundus angiography on long-term follow-up). Cotton-wool spots (CWSs) were found to be an important, early retinal lesion. On ophthalmoscopy, they had a characteristic appearance. Fluorescein fundus angiography of these lesions revealed focal retinal capillary nonperfusion. The CWSs usually lasted for over 3 weeks and resolved within 6 weeks, leaving permanent obliteration of the retinal capillaries in their distribution, secondary intraretinal microvascular abnormalities, and retinal nerve fiber loss. We discuss pathogenesis and other features of CWSs. There is overwhelming evidence that CWSs are due to occlusion of the terminal retinal arterioles, resulting in acute focal inner retinal ischemia; hence the scientifically valid term for them would be 'inner retinal ischemic spots'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Hypertension, Renovascular / complications
  • Ischemia / etiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Photography
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion / complications
  • Retinal Vessels / physiopathology*