Retinal infarction during sleep and wakefulness

Askiel Bruno, José Biller, Harold P. Adams, James J. Corbett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Brain and retinal infarctions during sleep have been attributed to focal hypoperfusion caused by systemic hypotension combined with underlying arterial stenosis, rather than to embolism. Because some retinal emboli may be visualized on ophthalmoscopy, we studied 24 consecutive patients (18 men and six women) aged 26-78 (mean 58) years with recent retinal infarction and determined whether the infarction had occurred during sleep or wakefulness. All patients underwent dilated ophthalmoscopy and a carotid artery study (arteriography in 20, duplex ultrasound in the remaining four), and 12 had echocardiography. Retinal infarction occurred during sleep at an unexpectedly high rate (14 of24 observed compared with eight of 24 expected, p=0.02). Retinal cholesterol emboli were seen in one half of the patients regardless of whether the retinal infarction had occurred during sleep or wakefulness. Carotid artery disease was found in seven of the 14 patients in whom infarction had occurred during sleep and in eight of the 10 patients in whom infarction had occurred during wakefulness (p=0.21). Cerebrovascular occlusive disease was not found in the five patients aged <50 years. Our findings suggest that embolism is a common mechanism of retinal infarction during sleep or wakefulness, that in patients aged >50 years extracranial carotid artery disease is a common source of retinal emboli, and that the retina may be especially susceptible to infarction during sleep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1494-1496
Number of pages3
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebral infarction
  • Embolism
  • Retinal ischemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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