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May 1991

Delayed Visual Loss due to Trauma of the Internal Carotid Artery

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Ophthalmology (Drs Weinstein, Appen, and Jacobson), Radiology (Drs Rufenacht, Partington, and Graves), Neurology (Drs Weinstein and Strother), and Neurosurgery (Drs Weinstein, Partington, Graves, and Strother), University of Wisconsin, Madison; the Department of Neurology, Marshfield (Wis) Clinic (Dr Jacobson); the Department of Ophthalmology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Dr Cox); and the Department of Neurology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Moster).

Arch Neurol. 1991;48(5):490-497. doi:10.1001/archneur.1991.00530170050020

• The group of six patients in this study experienced delayed visual loss following head trauma. Visual loss occurred from 1 day to 13 years after the initial injury. All patients suffered indirect trauma to the internal carotid artery resulting in formation of either an aneurysm or pseudoaneurysm or a carotid-cavernous fistula. Review of the radiologic and clinical findings was performed in six patients. The diagnosis was established by computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and angiography. All patients had follow-up clinical evaluation and imaging studies. Treatment by neurosurgical or interventional neuroradiologic procedures resulted in significant visual improvement in five patients. Different pathophysiologic mechanisms could be correlated with the delayed visual loss produced by the two types of lesions. The pathologic changes associated with the aneurysms/pseudoaneurysms included direct compression of optic nerves and/or chiasm and intracranial hematoma. A carotid-cavernous fistula caused delayed visual loss by either hematoma at the orbital apex or compression of the chiasm and/or optic nerves by saccular dilatation of the cavernous sinus. The delayed onset of decreased vision following head trauma should alert the physician to the possibility of a traumatic aneurysm/pseudoaneurysm or a carotid-cavernous fistula. Different neuro-ophthalmologic symptoms can usually be correlated with the pathologic changes demonstrated by neuroimaging procedures.