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Table of Contents
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 256-258
Transient cortical blindness following intracardiac repair of congenital heart disease in an 11-year-old boy

1 Department of Anaesthesiology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of Paediatric Cardiology, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
3 Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

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Date of Web Publication6-Apr-2017


Postoperative blindness (PB) primarily involves reception and conductance parts of the visual pathway due to ischemia following cessation of blood supply, for example, retinal vascular occlusion. Although a rare cause of PB, cortical blindness (CB), which results from ischemia/infarction of visual cortex, has a poor outcome due to its mostly nonreversible nature. Ischemic optic neuropathy is the most common cause of PB following cardiac surgeries. CB following cardiac surgeries involving cardiopulmonary bypass has been rarely reported. Only a few of those articles reported partial or complete reversal of CB. We report an incidence of transient CB in an 11-year-old child who was operated for double chambered right ventricle with ventricular septal defect.

Keywords: Cardiopulmonary bypass, cortical blindness, microembolization, postoperative blindness

How to cite this article:
Bharati S, Sharma MK, Chattopadhay A, Das D. Transient cortical blindness following intracardiac repair of congenital heart disease in an 11-year-old boy. Ann Card Anaesth 2017;20:256-8

How to cite this URL:
Bharati S, Sharma MK, Chattopadhay A, Das D. Transient cortical blindness following intracardiac repair of congenital heart disease in an 11-year-old boy. Ann Card Anaesth [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Dec 10];20:256-8. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The majority of reported postoperative (nonocular surgery) blindness cases were caused by retinal vascular occlusion or ischemic optic neuropathy.[1] “Cortical blindness” (CB) which is characterized by loss of vision due to transient or permanent dysfunction of the occipital cortex, has been rarely reported as a postoperative complication following cardiac surgery involving cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Meticulous vigilance is required to avoid this grave complication during cardiac surgery involving CPB which is often associated with hypotension, hemodilution or microembolization that may cause hypoperfusion of occipital cortex leading to ischemia/infarction. Postoperative blindness (PB) often goes unnoticed in pediatric patients because of their inability to express the event leading to delay in diagnosis. We report a case of transient CB due to areas of infarction in occipital lobe following intracardiac repair of congenital heart defects under CPB.

   Case Report Top

An 11-year-old boy was admitted to our hospital with the complaint of shortness of breath. Two-dimensional echocardiography revealed a large malaligned perimembranous ventricular septal defect (VSD) with bidirectional shunt. A low infundibular and right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT) muscle bundle was detected causing severe RVOT obstruction with a maximum pressure gradient of 64 mmHg. Right coronary cusp prolapse was present causing mild aortic regurgitation. Trivial tricuspid regurgitation was present. The other important findings were: situs solitus, levocardia, normal systemic and pulmonary venous return, good sized and confluent branch pulmonary arteries, intact interatrial septum, atrioventricular-ventriculoarterial concordance, good biventricular function, left arch, absent major coronaries surrounding RVOT, absent coarctation of aorta and absent persistent left-sided superior vena cava (SVC).

The patient was diagnosed with “double chambered right ventricle (RV) with VSD.” An intracardiac repair comprising of RVOT bundle resection, pulmonary valvotomy (pulmonary valve was preserved), and “Sauvage Dacron” patch closure of VSD were done under standard general anesthesia technique. Intraoperative course was uneventful. Systemic cooling to 30°C along with del Nido cardioplegia (500 ml) at 3°C were used for myocardial protection. For an institution of CPB 16Fr DLP aortic, 16Fr DLP (SVC) and 18Fr DLP (inferior vena cava) cannulas, Minimax Plus ® Oxygenator (Medtronic), PerfX ® arterial filter with 40 μm Polyester screen filter efficiency (B. L. Lifesciences) were used. Mean perfusion pressure was maintained around 50-60 mm of Hg. Standard de-airing protocol was followed (de-airing through patent foramen ovale and aortic root suction). Total CPB and aortic cross-clamp time were 72 and 43 min. The patient came off CPB with moderate inotropic support (dobutamine at 5 μg/kg/min and adrenalin at 0.05 μg/kg/min). RV/left ventricle pressure ratio was found to be 0.6. Post-CPB heart showed normal sinus rhythm. The patient was shifted to Intensive Therapy Unit after on-table tracheal extubation. However, soon after regaining consciousness, he complained about the total loss of vision (without light perception) in both the eyes. A detailed ophthalmologic examination including direct and indirect ophthalmoscopy could not detect any ocular damage involving both the eyes. After consulting Neurologist and ophthalmologist, plain computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain were done on the same day. The CT [Figure 1] did not find any obvious acute focal abnormality. However, MRI brain [Figure 2] at different secretions revealed multiple regions of acute ischemic infarct in bilateral occipitoparietal and right frontal lobes. The T2-weighted image [Figure 3] at the level of the orbits shows normal signal within the optic nerves bilaterally. A diagnosis of CB was made and conservative medical management was adopted. A gradual recovery of vision was noted as on a postoperative day (POD) 1 he was able to identify light in both the eyes and on POD 3 he was able to detect hand movement in both the eyes. On POD 9, he was able to identify faces of his parents and known people. He was discharged from the hospital on POD 10 and was explained about the slow progress of visual recovery.
Figure 1: Computed tomography scan of brain showing normal signals of brain parenchyma including occipitopareital region

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Figure 2: T2-weighted image of the brain shows increased signal within the occipital lobe suggestive of acute infarction

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Figure 3: T2-weighted image at the level of the orbits shows normal signal within the optic nerves bilaterally

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On follow-up visit after 1 week following discharge from the hospital, he was found to have hazy vision with poor comprehension, and his vision acuity was found to be 6/12 (with 'E' chart) in both the eyes. One week later, on the second follow-up visit, his vision was re-examined for acuity and was found to be 6/9 in both the eyes. However, difficulty in visual comprehension persisted. One month later, on the third follow-up visit, his vision was re-examined which revealed improved vision with the restoration of visual comprehension (6/9 both eyes with English alphabets and N6 in both eyes at 25 cm distance with Hindi alphabets).

   Discussion Top

Although the most common cause of CB is cerebrovascular disease, cardiac surgery, and cerebral angiography are also considered as major causes.[2],[3],[4],[5],[6] CB following cardiac surgery may happen due to occipital cortex dysfunction through a variety of mechanisms, including hypoxia/anoxia from hypoperfusion, cerebral hemorrhage, blood, fat, and air embolism or combination of these factors. Cortical penetration of contrast media is the reason behind CB following cerebral or coronary angiography.[7] Despite taking all the precautions which includes maintaining optimum hematocrit and perfusion pressure during CPB period, preventing hypoxia, acidosis, and hypotension our patient developed multiple infarctions in both occipitoparietal and right frontal lobe which probably indicates the incidence of microemboli shower. Although CPB was the most likely source of microemboli, manipulation of the aorta, cannulation and deairing techniques all are potential microemboli source. Using 40 μ filter or membrane oxygenator for CPB circuit do not give hundred percent protection against microembolization which is also independent of CPB duration.[8],[9],[10] The clinical findings after occipital infarction comprise loss of vision, homonymous visual field defect of various configurations, central vision, and color vision.[11]

Following CB the loss of vision may be permanent or transient.[12],[13],[14],[15] The recovery of vision if happens may take variable period depending on various factors. Best prognosis has been observed in patients under the age of 40 years, in those without a history of hypertension or diabetes mellitus, and in those without associated cognitive, language, or memory impairments.[2] Good visual recovery has been observed in children where the blindness is associated with cardiac surgery [16] as is in our case. In our case, the patient regained full vision with the restoration of presurgical level for acuity of vision. However, unlike other case reports the recovery of presurgical vision for both distant as well as near took only about 2 months of time.[3]

Postoperative posterior ischemic optic neuropathy (PION) which can result in PB with similar signs and symptoms. However, MRI study including the apparent diffusion coefficient map did not find any features suggestive of ischemia/infarction of posterior segment of optic nerve ruling out PION as a diagnosis.

Therefore, strong suspicion for loss of vision due to cortical blindnessis necessary if any feature of microembolization and/or cerebral ischemia/infarction is found in pediatric patients following cardiac surgeries associated with CPB. Efforts should be made to prevent microembolization.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Roth S. Perioperative visual loss: What do we know, what can we do? Br J Anaesth 2009;103 Suppl 1:i31-40.  Back to cited text no. 1
Aldrich MS, Alessi AG, Beck RW, Gilman S. Cortical blindness: Etiology, diagnosis, and prognosis. Ann Neurol 1987;21:149-58.  Back to cited text no. 2
Bagheri J, Mandegar MH, Sarzaeem MR, Chitsaz S. Transient bilateral cortical visual loss after coronary artery bypass grafting in a normotensive risk-free patient. Heart Surg Forum 2008;11:E248-51.  Back to cited text no. 3
Smith JL, Cross SA. Occipital lobe infarction after open heart surgery. J Clin Neuroophthalmol 1983;3:23-30.  Back to cited text no. 4
Suzuki Y, Kiyosawa M, Mochizuki M, Ishii K, Senda M. Cortical blindness following aortic arch surgery. Jpn J Ophthalmol 2001;45:547-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
Parry R, Rees JR, Wilde P. Transient cortical blindness after coronary angiography. Br Heart J 1993;70:563-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
Merchut MP, Richie B. Transient visuospatial disorder from angiographic contrast. Arch Neurol 2002;59:851-4.  Back to cited text no. 7
De Somer F. Evidence-based used, yet still controversial: The arterial filter. J Extra Corpor Technol 2012;44:P27-30.  Back to cited text no. 8
Blauth CI, Smith PL, Arnold JV, Jagoe JR, Wootton R, Taylor KM. Influence of oxygenator type on the prevalence and extent of microembolic retinal ischemia during cardiopulmonary bypass. Assessment by digital image analysis. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1990;99:61-9.  Back to cited text no. 9
Blauth CI, Arnold JV, Schulenberg WE, McCartney AC, Taylor KM. Cerebral microembolism during cardiopulmonary bypass. Retinal microvascular studies in vivo with fluorescein angiography. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1988;95:668-76.  Back to cited text no. 10
Simpson DE. Clinical features of occipital infarction. J Am Optom Assoc 1990;61:465-70.  Back to cited text no. 11
Datt V, Virmani S, Malik I, Agarwal S, Joshi CS, Dhingra A, et al. Irreversible loss of vision in a paediatric patient due to occipital infarction after cardiopulmonary bypass. Ann Card Anaesth 2012;15:88-90.  Back to cited text no. 12
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Tchantchaleishvili V, Dibardino DJ, Bolman RM 3rd. Transient bilateral blindness in a patient after cardiac surgery. Heart Surg Forum 2011;14:E198-9.  Back to cited text no. 13
Movahedi N, Shirani S, Soltanzadeh S, Yazdanifard P. Transient cortical blindness following coronary artery bypass graft: A case report. Heart Surg Forum 2009;12:E303-4.  Back to cited text no. 14
Shin YD, Lim SW, Bae JH, Lee DH, Baek DH, Hong JS. Transient cortical blindness after heart surgery in a child patient – A case report. Korean J Anesthesiol 2010;59:61-4.  Back to cited text no. 15
Wong VC. Cortical blindness in children: A study of etiology and prognosis. Pediatr Neurol 1991;7:178-85.  Back to cited text no. 16

Correspondence Address:
Debasis Das
Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aca.ACA_159_16

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]