Atypical retinal microvasculopathy after bone marrow transplantation


Correspondence: Dr Guy Bylsma 23 Heidelberg Road, Clifton Hill, Victoria 3068, Australia. Email:


Objective: Typical early ischaemic retinal microvascular changes with cotton wool spots after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) are well recognised. In this study an atypical non-ischaemic late retinopathy is described.

Methods: Sequential cases of late retinal microvasculopathy following allogeneic BMT were reviewed. Demographic features and clinical and angiographic data were collected.

Results: Of 399 patients undergoing allogeneic BMT between 1992 and 1999, eight eyes of four patients developed atypical retinopathy. All patients were male and the age range was 27–50 (mean 37.5) years. The indications for BMT were acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (two patients), chronic myeloid leukaemia (one patient) and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (one patient). Two patients had conditioning regimens including irradiation. All had cyclosporine and methotrexate as graft-versus-host disease prophylaxis. All but one had cyclophosphamide and busulphan as conditioning treatment. One had interferon. No patients had sustained hypertension or diabetes mellitus. Atypical retinopathy was identified 13–62 (mean 50) months after BMT and clinical features consisted of microaneurysms (MA; 4/4), hard exudates (1/4) and macular oedema (1/4). No patient had cotton wool spots. The median acuity was 6/5. Angiographic features were MA (4/4), late leak (2/4) and peripheral (1/4) or central (1/4) ischaemia. One patient underwent focal photocoagulation for macular oedema.

Conclusion: Retinal microvascular incompetence (without cotton wool spots) with good vision may occur in a small number of patients as a late complication of allogeneic BMT.