Terson's syndrome in subarachnoid hemorrhage and severe brain injury accompanied by acutely raised intracranial pressure

J Neurosurg. 1998 May;88(5):851-4. doi: 10.3171/jns.1998.88.5.0851.


Object: The syndrome of retinal or vitreous hemorrhage in association with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is known as Terson's syndrome. The authors' purpose was to determine whether intraocular hemorrhage occurs with similar incidence when caused by severe brain injury accompanied by acutely raised intracranial pressure (ICP).

Methods: Prospective ophthalmological examination was performed in 22 consecutive patients with SAH or severe brain injury and elevated ICP. Thirteen patients were admitted for SAH (World Federation of Neurological Surgeons Grades II-IV) and nine for severe brain injury (Glasgow Coma Scale scores 3-10). Monitoring of ICP was performed at the time of admission via a ventricular catheter. Initial ICP exceeded 20 mm Hg in all patients. Indirect ophthalmoscopy without induced mydriasis was performed within the 1st week after the acute event. Retinal or vitreous hemorrhage was seen in six (46%) of 13 patients with SAH and in four (44%) of nine patients with severe brain injury. Ocular bleeding was found bilaterally in three patients with SAH and in one patient with severe brain injury (18%). Six of the 10 patients with Terson's syndrome died as a result of their acute event.

Conclusions: The present results indicate that Terson's syndrome may be related to acute elevation of ICP, independent of its causes, and may occur with similar incidence in patients with severe brain injury and those with SAH. Because recognition and treatment of Terson's syndrome may prevent visual impairment and associated secondary damage to the eye, increased awareness of this entity in all patients with acute raised intracranial hypertension is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Catheterization / instrumentation
  • Cause of Death
  • Cerebral Ventricles
  • Eye Diseases / prevention & control
  • Eye Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Eye Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intracranial Hypertension / complications*
  • Intracranial Pressure / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Patient Admission
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Syndrome
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / prevention & control
  • Vitreous Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Vitreous Hemorrhage / physiopathology