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J Neurosurg Sci. 1999 Sep;43(3):229-34.

Surgical treatment of penetrating orbito-cranial injuries. Case report.

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Chair of Neurotraumatology, University of Rome La Sapienza.


Penetrating orbital injuries are not frequent but neither are they rare. The various diagnostic and therapeutic problems are related to the nature of the penetrating object, its velocity, shape and size as well as the possibility that it may be partially or wholly retained within the orbit. The authors present another case with unusual characteristics and discuss the strategies available for the best possible treatment of this traumatic pathology in the light of the published data. The patient in this case was a young man involved in a road accident who presented orbito-cerebral penetration caused by a metal rod with a protective plastic cap. Following the accident, the plastic cap (2.5x2 cm) was partially retained in the orbit. At initial clinical examination, damage appeared to be exclusively ophthalmological. Subsequent CT scan demonstrated the degree of intracerebral involvement. The damaged cerebral tissue was removed together with bone fragments via a bifrontal craniotomy, the foreign body was extracted and the dura repaired. Postoperative recovery was normal and there were no neuro-ophthalmological deficits at long-term clinical assessment. Orbito-cranial penetration, which is generally associated with violent injuries caused by high-velocity missiles, may not be suspected in traumas produced by low-velocity objects. Diagnostic orientation largely depends on precise knowledge of the traumatic event and the object responsible. When penetration is suspected and/or the object responsible is inadequately identified, a CT scan is indicated. The type of procedure to adopt for extraction, depends on the size and nature of the retained object. Although the possibility of non-surgical extraction has been described, surgical removal is the safest form of treatment in cases with extensive laceration and brain contusion.

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