University of Iowa Health Care

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Incidental Retinal Embolus

Category: Retina/Vitreous
Photographer: Jody Troyer
Contributor: Ben J. Janson, MD

August 24, 2017



This patient was referred for evaluation of a macular hole in the left eye after a decrease in visual acuity over 6 weeks. In addition to the macular hole, an incidental yellow-orange plaque was visible within a vessel of the inferotemporal arcades within the inferotemporal macula. The patient had a history of recent cardiac surgery.

The inner layers of the retina gain their blood supply from the central retinal artery, and in some cases, the fovea is supplied by the cilioretinal artery. Patients with an embolism may be asymptomatic, like this patient, when a peripheral arteriole is occluded. Common embolic sources are cholesterol (Hollenhorst plaque), platelet-fibrin, or calcific emboli, and all of these emboli are related to underlying vascular disease. Additional sources of emboli include fat, septic, and talc emboli.  If these emboli lodge in larger vessels, a branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO) or central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) may occur. No known therapy has been effective in improving visual damage.

View full case related to Central Retinal Artery Occlusion (CRAO)


  1. Arterial occlusive disease. In: Basic and clinical science course (BCSC) Section 12: Retina and vitreous. Chapter 6 Retinal vascular diseases associated with cardiovascular disease. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016-2017 p129-135

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last updated: 01/12/2017; updated 08-24-2017
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