BACKGROUND: Embolic events leading to retinal ischemia or cerebral ischemia share common risk factors; however, it has been well documented that the rate of concurrent cerebral infarction is higher in patients with a history of transient ischemic attack (TIA) than in those with monocular vision loss (MVL) due to retinal ischemia. Despite the fact that emboli to the ophthalmic artery (OA) and middle cerebral artery share the internal carotid artery (ICA) as a common origin or transit for emboli, the asymmetry in their final destination has not been fully explained. We hypothesize that the anatomic location of the OA takeoff from the ICA may contribute to the differential flow of small emboli to the retinal circulation vs the cerebral circulation. METHODS: We report a retrospective, comparative, case-control study on 28 patients with retinal ischemia and 26 patients with TIA or cerebral infarction caused by embolic events. All subjects underwent either computed tomography angiography or MRA. The location of the ipsilateral OA origin off the ICA was then graded in a blinded fashion and compared between cohorts. Vascular risk factors were collected for all patients, including age, sex, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, arrhythmia, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and smoking. RESULTS: We find that in patients with retinal ischemia of embolic etiology, the ipsilateral OA takeoff from the ICA is more proximal than in patients with cerebral infarcts or TIA (P = 0.0002). We found no statistically significant differences in demographic, vascular, or systemic risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: We find that the mean anatomical location of the OA takeoff from the ICA is significantly more proximal in patients with MVL due to retinal ischemia compared with patients with TIA or cerebral ischemia. This finding contributes significantly to our understanding of a long observed but poorly understood phenomenon that patients with MVL are less likely to have concurrent cerebral ischemia than are patients with TIA.