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J Emerg Med. 2016 Apr;50(4):e183-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.12.022. Epub 2016 Feb 12.

Embolic Central Retinal Artery Occlusion Detected with Point-of-care Ultrasonography in the Emergency Department.

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SC Medicina e Chirurgia d'Accettazione e d'Urgenza-OBI, Ospedale San Paolo, Savona, Italy.
SC Oculistica, Ospedale San Paolo, Savona, Italy.



Ocular emergencies account for 2-3% of all emergency department (ED) visits. Sonographic evaluation of the eye offers a very useful diagnostic tool in the ED. In the ED setting, ocular ultrasound could identify a retinal detachment, or a massive vitreous hemorrhage, and the training for emergency medicine practitioners is quite easy.


An 84-year-old woman presented to our ED with a painless acute vision loss in her right eye. Immediate bedside emergency ocular ultrasound was performed, and it showed a retrobulbar hyperechoic material, suggestive of an embolus within the central retinal artery. Fluorescein angiography showed limited and sluggish filling of the retinal arteries after injection of fluorescein, and optical coherence tomography demonstrated a decrease in the reflectivity and thickness of the inner retinal layers. The final diagnosis was embolic central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO). WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Among the causes of acute loss of vision, CRAO is associated with systemic vascular disease. The importance of visible retinal emboli has been well documented due to its association with increase in mortality. A rapid evaluation of the central retinal artery could be a simple tool to identify an embolus, and this could lead to a rapid treatment. The evaluation of central retinal artery is a less defined setting in emergency physician bedside ultrasound, but the identification of CRAO could lead to a rapid acceleration in diagnosis and treatment of a potentially life-threatening disease.


central retinal artery occlusion; emergency ultrasound; sudden vision loss

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