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Pathogenesis of hypertensive retinopathy. An experimental study in the monkey.
  1. A Garner,
  2. N Ashton,
  3. R Tripathi,
  4. E M Kohner,
  5. C J Bulpitt and
  6. C T Dollery


    Retinal changes in accelerated hypertension were studied in seventeen monkeys with experimental hypertension by means of ophthalmoscopy and colour and flourescence photography during life, and by injection and digest preparations and light and electron microscopy after the animals had been killed. Cotton-wool spots developed in all but three monkeys. The arteries became tortuous and dilated and the light reflex decreased in those animals that became hypertensive. The earliest abnormality was a development of many points of fluorescein leakage on terminal arterioles or small arteries. Such leaking points were always present in relation to cotton-wool spots but were not confined to such areas. Focal narrowing of arteries was not observed but arteriolar occlusion and retrograde filling of the distal segment was present in three animals. Superficial linear haemorrhages were noted in five animals. Light microscopy revealed cotton-wool spots which were identical to those observed in man with a collection of swollen axons containing densely staining pseudonuclei. Study of the arterioles by electron microscopy showed findings ranging from normality to extensive necrosis. Many precapillary arteries were constricted and some were virtually occluded. Degenerative changes were present in smooth muscle cells in the wall of many of the constricted arterioles. Many arteries also showed insudation into their wall of plasma which had seeped into the muscular coat displacing and sometimes entirely replacing the smooth muscle cells. Except for arterioles with advanced necrosis, there was no indication of how plasma insudation occurred. Two arterioles with extensive necrosis showed a break within the endothelial cell cytoplasm through which penetration of plasma proteins had probably occurred. The extravascular tissues showed collections of amorphous material, sone of it with the typical banded configuration of fibrin. The sequence of events proposed to explain these features is as follows: (1) The arterioles constrict as the pressure rises, most likely as a result of vascular autoregulation. This may head to occlusion of the precapillary arterioles and is associated with necrosis of vascular smooth muscle. (2) Dilatation then occurs with insudation of plasma into the unsupported wall through a damaged endothelium. This stage probably corresponds to the autoregulatory break-point and is evidenced clinically by focal leakage of fluorescein. (3) Progressive plasma insudation into the vessel wall with further muscle necrosis results in secondary occlusion and the typical picture of advanced fibrinoid necrosis.

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