Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Retinal changes in malignant hypertension.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 292 doi: (Published 25 January 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;292:233
  1. E McGregor,
  2. C G Isles,
  3. J L Jay,
  4. A F Lever,
  5. G D Murray


    To assess the diagnostic and prognostic importance of papilloedema in malignant hypertension a two part study was undertaken. Four observers reviewed 56 photographs of fundi from patients with grade 3 or 4 hypertensive retinopathy. Complete agreement on the presence or absence of haemorrhages was recorded in 52 cases and on exudates in 53 cases. Opinion on papilloedema, however, was divided, all four observers agreeing in only 34 cases. In the second part of the study survival in 139 consecutive hypertensive patients with bilateral retinal haemorrhages and exudates was examined by life tables. Ten year survival was 46% in patients with bilateral haemorrhages and exudates alone (n = 43) and 48% when papilloedema was also present (n = 96). Multivariate analysis confirmed that papilloedema was not related to survival. These results suggest that papilloedema is an unreliable physical sign and does not adversely influence prognosis in hypertensive patients who already have bilateral retinal haemorrhages and exudates when effective treatment is available. Papilloedema should no longer be regarded as a necessary feature of malignant hypertension.