Transient experimental occlusion of the central artery of the retina (OCAR), lasting from 15 to 270 minutes, was produced by clamping the artery in the orbit in 63 eyes of rhesus monkeys. Ophthalmoscopic and fluorescein angiographic studies were performed before and during clamping of the artery, as well as periodically after unclamping, for periods of up to 22 weeks. The effects of transient retinal ischaemia on the retina, optic disc, and retinal vascular bed were studied. 89% of the eyes showed a variable amount of residual retinal circulation on angiography during CAR clamping, but this did not exercise any protective action against ischaemic damage. Duration of the ischaemia was the principal factor determining severity of damage. OCAR for up to 98 minutes produced no significant permanent neural damage, but OCAR for 105 minutes or longer produced irreversible permanent neural damage. There was no significant permanent damage to the retinal vascular bed, though a transient fluorescein leakage was seen after OCAR for 2 1/2-3 hours or longer. The findings revealed that the normal red colour of the optic disc represents retinal vascular filling in the surface layer of the disc and not deeper vascular filling. The various factors influencing the retinal circulation and neural damage in OCAR are discussed.
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