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Kyrieleis plaques are also referred to as “Kyrieleis vasculitis”, “Kyrieleis arteriolitis”, “nodular periarteritis”, “segmental retinal periarteritis” or “segmental retinal arteritis” in the literature.
Kyrieleis plaques represent a rare fundus examination finding, first described in an eye with presumed tuberculous uveitis by the German ophthalmologist Werner Kyrieleis, in 1933. They appear as multiple, segmental, and focal yellowish-white lesions, affecting retinal arterial branches in a beaded pattern[2-4].
Kyrieleis arteritis is regarded as an extremely rare clinical entity. Almost 90 years after its first description, there are only about 20 cases reported in the literature. However, some defend that this disorder is way more common than the literature suggests, as it may be considerably underreported.
Etiology and Pathophysiology
Kyrieleis plaques always reflect severe intraocular inflammation. They have been classically reported in association with infectious posterior uveitis, Toxoplasma gondii being the most frequent etiology. Other common agents include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Treponema pallidum, Cytomegalovirus, Varicella-Zoster Virus, Herpes Simplex Virus- 1 and 2, and Rickettsia conorii[2-10]. A case of Kyrieleis arteritis associated with Behçet disease has also been published. Due to both the rarity of this condition and the absence of histopathological studies, the exact pathophysiology of these plaques remains to be found. Indeed, not much is known neither about the nature of the whitish deposits nor about their precise location within the arteries[4, 5]. Various hypotheses have been proposed, though. In 1959, Griffin and Bodian suggested that the plaques were a consequence of the migration of exudates from a nearby chorioretinitis focus to the periarterial sheaths. In the early ‘70s, Orzalesi and Ricciardi speculated that these deposits were composed of cellular and inflammatory material within the arterial walls. Wise hypothesized that they constituted arteriosclerosis lesions. A recent study, based on multimodal imaging findings, proposed that Kyrieleis plaques reflect the inflammatory involvement of the vascular endothelium, rather than a periarterial or endoluminal damage.
Like other forms of retinal vasculitis, the diagnosis of Kyrieleis is clinical, based on the fundoscopic examination, and supported by ancillary tests namely fluorescein angiography (FA), indocyanine green (ICG) angiography, fundus autofluorescence (FAF), and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
On fundoscopic examination, Kyrieleis plaques appear as multiple, segmental, and focal yellowish-white deposits, resembling atheromatous plaques, arranged in a beaded pattern, along the branches of the central retinal arterial[3-6]. As previously mentioned, these plaques always occur in association with intraocular inflammation, and typically, an active focus of chorioretinitis is present in the vicinity of the affected arteries. Sometimes, the plaques can only be visible once the severe intraocular inflammation has resolved. Kyrieleis plaques involve exclusively the arterial vasculature[4, 5].
Fluorescein Angiography (FA)
Fluorescein angiography findings in Kyrieleis arteritis are highly characteristic as there is neither leakage of fluorescein dye, nor occlusive phenomenon, differentiating this entity from other forms of retinal vasculitis[4, 5]. Eventually, this absence of vascular leakage excludes a transmural involvement of the artery wall, limiting the inflammatory process exclusively to the endothelium itself4. Therefore, Pichi et al suggest that the term “endothelitis” would be more suitable to name these plaques 4. This same group recently reported that Kyrieleis plaques were hypofluorescent in early frames, with increasing hyperfluorescence in later angiographic frames4. Others, on the other hand, stated that the retinal arteries containing the plaques had a completely normal angiographic behavior throughout all phases of the exam[3, 7].
Indocyanine Green (ICG) Angiography
According to Pichi et al, ICG angiography is the most precise imaging modality to reveal even subtle Kyrieleis plaques 4. Due to its amphiphilic nature, the ICG easily binds to the inflammatory molecules that compose the plaque, displaying well-delineated hyperfluorescence during the whole exam.
Fundus Autofluorescence (FAF)
Kyrieleis plaques appear hyperautofluorescent, potentially due to selective inflammation of the vascular endothelium.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
SD-OCT scans show hyperreflectivity of the artery wall at the sites of Kyrieleis plaques.
The glistening, yellowish-white, calcific-like appearance typical of Kyrieleis plaques can be ophthalmoscopically difficult to differentiate from fluffy perivascular sheathing or cuffing, characteristic of other forms of retinal vasculitis, especially in cases of severe intraocular inflammation where both finds can coexist[3, 6, 7]. In this scenario, it might be helpful to bear in mind that Kyrieleis plaques affect exclusively the retinal arteries[4, 5]. Besides, they are limited to the endothelium and do not extend outside the vessel wall, and thus, do not leak in FA, in contrast to areas of vascular sheathing[4, 6]. Kyrieleis plaques can also be misdiagnosed as retinal emboli or atheromatous plaques. Again, FA findings can help in this differential diagnosis as it presents with normal arterial filling, with no evidence of lumen obstruction or retinal non-perfusion[4, 5, 7, 9].
The management of Kyrieleis arteritis depends on the underlying etiology. The control of intraocular inflammation is the primary goal.
Although associated with severe ocular inflammation, Kyrieleis plaques are a benign finding, that does not worsen the prognosis of the underlying uveitis[4, 14]. Generally, with adequate treatment, there is a complete disappearance of the plaques (usually after the resolution of vitritis) without sequelae5. However, the plaques can persist long after the resolution of chorioretinitis and discontinuation of therapy.
Eponymous Dishonor: Without Forgetting History
In a recently published editorial , Werner Kyrieleis is denounced as a staunch defensor of Nazi ideology with public anti-Semitic beliefs. Therefore, considering the inacceptable nature of Kyrieleis’ political involvement, the author defends that such eponym should be disqualified (as happened with Reiter’s and Wegener’s) and replaced by the terms: “Segmental retinal arteritis”.
1. Kyrieleis W. [Discontinuous reversible arteriopathy in uveitis]. Albrecht Von Graefes Arch Ophthalmol. 1950;150(5-6):600-13.
2. Francés-Muñoz E, Gallego-Pinazo R, López-Lizcano R, García-Delpech S, Mullor JL, Díaz-Llopis M. Kyrieleis' vasculitis in acute retinal necrosis. Clin Ophthalmol. 2010;4:837-8.
3. Goel N, Sawhney A. Kyrieleis plaques associated with Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 acute retinal necrosis. Saudi J Ophthalmol. 2016;30(2):144-7.
4. Pichi F, Veronese C, Lembo A, Invernizzi A, Mantovani A, Herbort CP, et al. New appraisals of Kyrieleis plaques: a multimodal imaging study. Br J Ophthalmol. 2017;101(3):316-21.
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15. Kaza H, Patel A, Pathengay A. Persistence of Kyrieleis arteriolitis in bilateral acute retinal necrosis. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2020;68(9):1974.
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