Emergency lateral canthotomy and cantholysis: a simple procedure to preserve vision from sight threatening orbital hemorrhage

Steven Roy Ballard, Robert W Enzenauer, Thomas O'Donnell, James C Fleming, Gregory Risk, Aaron N Waite
Journal of Special Operations Medicine: a Peer Reviewed Journal for SOF Medical Professionals 2009, 9 (3): 26-32
Retrobulbar hemorrhage is an uncommon, but potentially devastating complication associated with facial trauma. It can rapidly fill the orbit and cause an "orbital compartment syndrome" that subsequently cuts off perfusion to vital ocular structures, leading to permanent visual loss. Treatment must be initiated within a limited time in order to prevent these effects; however, specialty consultation is not always available in remote field environments. This article addresses the mechanism, diagnosis, and treatment ofretrobulbar hemorrhage via lateral canthotomy and cantholysis, and recommends that 18D medical sergeants be properly trained to evaluate and perform this sight-saving procedure in emergent settings where upper echelons of care are not immediately available.

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