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J Neurosurg. 2009 Apr;110(4):638-41. doi: 10.3171/2008.5.17580.

Sudden blindness as a complication of percutaneous trigeminal procedures: mechanism analysis and prevention.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33606, USA.


The authors describe the case of a 76-year-old man in whom reversible sudden blindness developed after a percutaneous balloon compression rhizotomy for trigeminal neuralgia. His eye became tense and swollen with intraocular pressures of 66 mm Hg. Acetazolamide was administered, and visual acuity (20/50) returned within several months. Despite correct needle placement, the intraocular pressure rose acutely because of transient occlusion of the orbital venous drainage through the cavernous sinus; this was reversed with aggressive medical treatment. In cadaveric studies (dried skull and formalin-fixed head), the authors studied the mechanism of optic nerve penetration. Their findings showed that excessive cranial angulation of the needle with penetration of the inferior orbital fissure can directly traumatize the optic nerve in the orbital apex. Direct trauma to the optic nerve can therefore be prevented by early and repeated confirmation of the needle trajectory with lateral fluoroscopy before penetration of the foramen ovale.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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