Analysis of complications after surgical repair of orbital fractures

Matteo Brucoli, Francesco Arcuri, Roberta Cavenaghi, Arnaldo Benech
Journal of Craniofacial Surgery 2011, 22 (4): 1387-90

BACKGROUND: The term "orbital blow-out fracture" is referred to as the mechanism by which an impact to the eyeball is transposed as a mechanical energy to the orbital walls, causing them to fracture. Despite a proper surgical technique, a successful anatomic reconstruction of the orbit, and an accurate follow-up, 3 complications are still frequently observed at long-term follow-up: diplopia, enophthalmos, and hypesthesia of the infraorbital nerve territory. In this retrospective study, we analyze the incidence, the specific characterization, and the potential risk factors of these 3 complications.

METHODS: The records of 75 patients who underwent surgical repair of isolated orbital blow-out fracture from January 2001 to December 2007 at the Maxillofacial Surgery Unit of the Novara Major Hospital were reviewed retrospectively. Patients who had other coexisting facial fractures or orbital rim involvement were excluded from this study. The mean follow-up reached 39 months (range, 6-81 months). Enophthalmos was measured by a Hertel exophthalmometer; diplopia was evaluated by an optometrist with cover test, red glass test, and Hess-Lancaster test; and hypesthesia of the infraorbital nerve territory was checked by clinical examination. The studied parameters included patient's age and sex, time interval between trauma and surgery, location of the fracture, and implant material. The χ test for nonparametric data was used, and a P value of less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS: Sex, location of the fracture, and implant material were not considered statistically significant (P > 0.05). The unique variable that influenced our data was the time interval between trauma and surgery (P > 0.05).

DISCUSSION: Although the surgical technique was executed properly and the immediate postoperative recovery was uneventful, diplopia, enophthalmos, and infraorbital nerve dysfunction were the frequent complications. We stress the fact that orbital blow-out fracture is generally not considered a technically demanding procedure, but the outcome can be very disappointing; the surgical procedure must be managed very carefully by experienced surgeons to lower the high rates of these 3 common complications. However, we can report that the incidence of diplopia, enophthalmos, and infraorbital nerve dysfunction are decreased by an immediate intervention and an early surgical repair of the orbital blow-out fracture. Patients who had surgery within 2 weeks of trauma have a lower risk to develop postoperative complications; this study supports an early surgical treatment of orbital blow-out fractures, when it is indicated.

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