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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptHHS Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
J Thorac Oncol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 November 20.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2989178

Bilateral Choroidal Metastasis as the Presenting Sign of Small Cell Lung Carcinoma

A 56-year-old African American man with recent diagnosis of cirrhosis with portal hypertension but no prior ocular disease presented with a 3-week history of progressive vision loss in both eyes. Visual acuity was hand motions in both eyes. Fundus examination of the right eye revealed a large inferior retinal detachment with a solid subretinal mass in the superior macula (Figure 1). Similar findings were seen in the left eye.

A large subretinal mass (outlined by arrowheads) involves the superior macula of the right eye. The retinal vessels overlying the mass are out of focus.

The clinical impression was metastatic carcinoma versus lymphoma, and the patient was referred urgently to an oncologist for a systemic evaluation. Before that evaluation, the patient was hospitalized for acute pneumonia. During the workup, a computed tomography scan showed lesions in the liver and left lung along with a large pleural effusion. The patient’s health rapidly declined, and he died before establishing a diagnosis. An autopsy revealed extensive hilar lung involvement by small cell carcinoma with widespread metastasis. Postmortem examination of the eyes showed moderately pigmented masses in the choroid posteriorly (Figure 2) with pathologic confirmation of the metastatic small cell carcinoma.

Autopsy specimen of the right eye demonstrates the choroidal mass (outlined by arrowheads).

Although about 30% of all symptomatic choroidal metastases occur in the setting of lung cancer, visual symptoms from small cell metastasis are rare.1,2 One previously reported case described a patient with treated small cell carcinoma who was evaluated for blurred vision and found to have a mass in the right eye. That lesion responded to additional chemotherapy including topotecan and cisplatin along with radiotherapy, although the patient died within 6 months of the ocular findings.3 Compared with the previous case reports,4 this patient is unique in that he had bilateral vision loss and bilateral choroidal metastases as the initial manifestation of small cell carcinoma of the lung.


Supported by an unrestricted departmental grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), Inc.


Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Dr. Grossniklaus is a senior scientific investigator in Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.


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2. Fernandes BF, Fernandes LH, Burnier MN. Choroidal mass as the presenting sign of small cell lung carcinoma. Can J Ophthalmol. 2006;41:605–608. [PubMed]
3. Lim HH, Choi SY, Yoo HJ, et al. Choroidal metastasis of small cell lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol. 2006;1:714–715. [PubMed]
4. Kocak Z, Tabakoglu E, Benian O, et al. Bilateral choroidal metastases as an initial manifestation of small cell carcinoma of the lung. Tuberk Toraks. 2006;54:61–64. [PubMed]