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Clinical Sciences
October 2000

Pattern of Vascular Nonperfusion in Retinal Venous Occlusions Occurring Within the Optic Nerve With and Without Optic Nerve Head Swelling

Author Affiliations

From the Eye and Vision Research Institute (Dr Beaumont) and the Department of Ophthalmology (Dr Kang), University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Arch Ophthalmol. 2000;118(10):1357-1363. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.10.1357

Objective  To investigate the significance of optic nerve head swelling (ONHS) in relation to the pattern of vascular nonperfusion, visual acuity (VA), and demographic profile in retinal venous occlusions (RVOs) occurring within the optic nerve.

Methods  Cases of RVO occurring within the optic nerve were divided on the basis of the presence (105 cases) or absence (163 cases) of ONHS. This division was performed by examining the color stereo fundus photographs in conditions masked from other clinical parameters. Duration of symptoms before assessment, age, and sex distributions were compared. The vein involved was identified, and the occlusion was confirmed to have occurred within the optic nerve by observing that the vein pierced the lamina cribrosa as a dilated vein. Fluorescein angiographs were examined, and the extent of vascular nonperfusion in the macula and peripheral retina was quantified from grade 1 to grade 4. The extent of break in the perifoveal capillary arcade was graded as 0, less than or equal to 90°, and greater than 90°. Best-corrected VA was assessed using the Snellen chart.

Results  The 2 groups were comparable in terms of the duration of the symptoms before examination. The mean age was significantly younger in the group with ONHS (58.3 vs 65.1 years, P<.001). Age distribution by sex demonstrated a higher proportion of men younger than 50 years in the ONHS group (19.1% vs 8.6%, P = .01). The group without ONHS involved the papillary vein more frequently (31.3% vs 17.1%, P = .01). The respective proportions of grade 1, 2, 3, and 4 vascular nonperfusion in the macula were 90.5%, 9.5%, 0%, and 0% in the ONHS group, and 62.6%, 14.7%, 13.5%, and 9.2% in the group without ONHS (P<.001). The corresponding proportions for the peripheral retina were 90.4%, 8.7%, 0%, and 1.0% in the ONHS group, and 62.7%, 13.0%, 18.0%, and 6.2% in the group without ONHS (P<.001). In 64.6% of cases with ONHS and 42.9% of cases without, the perifoveal arcade was intact. A break greater than 90° in the perifoveal arcade was present in 12.5% of cases with and 23.6% of cases without ONHS (P = .004). The median VA was significantly better in the ONHS group (6/24 vs 6/48, P = .005).

Conclusions  The RVOs occurring within the optic nerve can be subdivided into 2 distinct groups on the basis of ONHS. The presence of ONHS is associated with younger age, less severe vascular nonperfusion, and better VA. This is consistent with a retrocribrosal site of occlusion, which has access to the pial plexus that can provide collateral channels for retinal venous drainage.