Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1222–1227 | Cite as

Exploring the Possibility of a Retrograde Embolism Pathway from the Facial Artery to the Ophthalmic Artery System In Vivo

  • Hui Zheng
  • Lihong Qiu
  • Zonghui Liu
  • Yingjun Su
  • Xinyuan Pan
  • Sha Liu
  • Chenggang YiEmail author
Original Article Basic Science/Experimental



Blindness caused by soft tissue fillers is an extremely low-probability event, but it results in great concern because of its devastating consequences. Currently, the mechanism of an embolism is usually considered to be an accidental injection of fillers into the blood vessels of the face, such as a facial artery, and then retrograding into the ophthalmic artery system, which causes retinal ischemic necrosis. In addition, previous studies have shown that there are anastomoses between facial arteries and branches of the ophthalmic artery in cadavers. An in vivo study, however, has not yet been reported.


This study was approved by the institutional review board of Xijing Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University. Under general anesthesia, we dissected the same side of the face and eyeball in rabbits to manifest the facial artery and retina separately. Later, a needle (27 g) connected to a syringe (10 ml) full of methylene blue was inserted into a rabbit facial artery. Then, after poking a tiny hole in the central retinal artery, methylene blue was injected into the facial artery as quickly as possible (0.5 ml per second). At the same time, we carefully observed whether the central retinal artery had dye spillover or staining in the sclera. If blue dye was observed in the eye ground and/or the sclera, then it was thought to have entered the ophthalmic artery system (a positive result). In contrast, if none of the blue dye was observed, it was considered a negative result. A Chi-square (χ 2) test with a fourfold table was used to compare the differences in the frequencies of blue dye observed between living and dead rabbits. A value of p < 0.05 was considered significant.


One of the 20 rabbits showed the appearance of blue dye in the ophthalmic artery system in vivo, and the remaining 19 living rabbits had negative results. All 20 of the dead rabbits showed dye appearance in the eye ground. A statistically significant difference existed between the living and dead rabbits (p < 0.05).


In vivo, fillers can retrogradely enter the ophthalmic artery if the fillers entered the facial artery. Although the possibility is much lower in vivo than it is in corpses, adequate attention should be paid because of the catastrophic complications.

Level of Evidence V

This journal requires that authors assign a level of evidence to each article. For a full description of these Evidence-Based Medicine ratings, please refer to the Table of Contents or the online Instructions to Authors


Retrograde embolism In vivo Filler injection Blindness 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81471884, 81671932), the Natural Science Basic Research Plan in Shaanxi Province (2015JM8444) and the new medical technology and business of Xijing Hospital (XJGX13LC26).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have conflicts of interest in this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York and International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hui Zheng
    • 1
  • Lihong Qiu
    • 1
  • Zonghui Liu
    • 1
  • Yingjun Su
    • 1
  • Xinyuan Pan
    • 2
  • Sha Liu
    • 1
  • Chenggang Yi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Xijing HospitalFourth Military Medical UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Department of Plastic and Reconstructive SurgeryGuangxi Medical UniversityNanningChina

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