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Am J Rhinol. 2008 Sep-Oct;22(5):522-4. doi: 10.2500/ajr.2008.22.3217.

Management of retrobulbar hematoma.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia 23507, USA.



Retrobulbar hematoma (RH) is a complication that can result from both otolaryngic and ophthalmologic procedures. RH can occur during endoscopic sinus surgery and improper treatment can result in several morbidities, including visual loss. Despite serious consequences, management for RH is not well evaluated. However, lateral canthotomy with cantholysis is generally recommended. The objective of this study is to review the management for RH.


A retrospective study was performed at our tertiary hospital from 1979 to 2006 for patients with the ICD-9 code for orbital hematoma. The demographic information, comorbidities, presentation, management, follow-up period, and outcomes were evaluated. Data were analyzed.


Twenty-two patients were identified with 13 male patients and an average age of 43 years (range, 11-80 years). The RH was broken into three categories: iatrogenic, six cases; trauma, eight cases; and spontaneous, eight cases. The most common symptom was diplopia followed by orbital pain. The average pretreatment and posttreatment tonometric pressures were 25.3 mm Hg (range, 11-60 mm Hg) and 14.5 mm Hg (range, 10-22 mm Hg), respectively. The average proptosis was 4.3 (range: 0-8) mm. Treatments were observation (13 cases), medical treatment alone (4 cases), and surgical treatment with and without medical treatment (5 cases). Sixty-eight percent of the patient's visual acuity improved with these treatments. Twenty-seven percent had no visual changes from the RH. The average follow-up was 5 years.


Traditionally, lateral canthotomy with cantholysis is recommended for the treatment for RH. However, in certain patients and settings, there may be an acceptable alternative option for the management of RH.

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