High altitude retinal hemorrhage: a clinical and pathological case report

Ann Ophthalmol. 1982 Nov;14(11):1071-6.


Retinal hemorrhages may occur at high altitudes. They occur more commonly in association with acute mountain sickness and particularly with high-altitude cerebral edema. We describe a 27-year-old man who experienced retinal hemorrhages as well as papilledema and coma at 5,330-m altitude and who died four days later, one day after evacuation to 1,300-m altitude. At autopsy, we found papilledema and hemorrhages in the nerve fiber layer. These were sometimes distant from areas where there were arterioles and venules. There was perivascular red cell infiltration. Deeper layers of the retina were intact. We conclude that the hemorrhages were form both retinal capillaries and veins and we speculate that hypoxia, with or without the Valsalva effect, was the cause of the endothelial damage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude Sickness / complications*
  • Altitude Sickness / pathology
  • Brain Edema / etiology
  • Coma / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Edema / etiology
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / pathology