Retinopathy and Systemic Disease Morbidity in Severe COVID-19

Emory COVID-19 Quality and Clinical Research Collaborative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the prevalence of retinopathy and its association with systemic morbidity and laboratory indices of coagulation and inflammatory dysfunction in severe COVID-19. Design: Retrospective, observational cohort study. Methods: Adult patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 who underwent ophthalmic examination from April to July 2020 were reviewed. Retinopathy was defined as one of the following: 1) Retinal hemorrhage; 2) Cotton wool spots; 3) Retinal vascular occlusion. We analyzed medical comorbidities, sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) scores, clinical outcomes, and laboratory values for their association with retinopathy. Results: Thirty-seven patients with severe COVID-19 were reviewed, the majority of whom were female (n = 23, 62%), Black (n = 26, 69%), and admitted to the intensive care unit (n = 35, 95%). Fourteen patients had retinopathy (38%) with retinal hemorrhage in 7 (19%), cotton wool spots in 8 (22%), and a branch retinal artery occlusion in 1 (3%) patient. Patients with retinopathy had higher SOFA scores than those without retinopathy (8.0 vs. 5.3, p = .03), higher rates of respiratory failure requiring invasive mechanical ventilation and shock requiring vasopressors (p < .01). Peak D-dimer levels were 28,971 ng/mL in patients with retinopathy compared to 12,575 ng/mL in those without retinopathy (p = .03). Peak CRP was higher in patients with cotton wool spots versus those without cotton wool spots (354 mg/dL vs. 268 mg/dL, p = .03). Multivariate logistic regression modeling showed an increased risk of retinopathy with higher peak D-dimers (aOR 1.32, 95% CI 1.01–1.73, p = .04) and male sex (aOR 9.6, 95% CI 1.2–75.5, p = .04). Conclusion: Retinopathy in severe COVID-19 was associated with greater systemic disease morbidity involving multiple organs. Given its association with coagulopathy and inflammation, retinopathy may offer insight into disease pathogenesis in patients with severe COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-750
Number of pages8
JournalOcular Immunology and Inflammation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • ophthalmic disease
  • retinopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Ophthalmology


Dive into the research topics of 'Retinopathy and Systemic Disease Morbidity in Severe COVID-19'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this