Eighty-five patients with retinal emboli, visible ophthalmoscopically, were studied retrospectively. All the patients had presented with transient or permanent visual loss. Follow up from the time of presentation was one year to 12 years with a mean of 4.5 years. Life expectancy in the 58 medically treated patients who presented with cholesterol emboli was significantly reduced (p = 0.028). Stroke was the commonest cause of death and was significantly more frequent than in the general population (p less than 0.001); there was also an increased total incidence of cerebrovascular disease (fatal and non-fatal) compared with the Oxfordshire Stroke Project (p less than 0.001). The mortality from ischaemic heart disease was not significantly increased. We report a series of 85 patients with retinal emboli, 69 of whom had cholesterol emboli (70 fundi), 15 calcific emboli and one platelet-fibrin embolus. The natural history of medically treated patients with cholesterol emboli is compared both with an age and sex matched population and with patients with amaurosis fugax but no visible retinal emboli.
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