Current treatment and outcome in orbital cellulitis

Aust N Z J Ophthalmol. 1999 Dec;27(6):375-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1606.1999.00242.x.


Background: Bacterial orbital cellulitis is an uncommon condition previously associated with severe complications. The purpose of this paper is to describe current investigations and treatment in orbital cellulitis, establish their effectiveness and to describe the incidence of complications and surgical intervention.

Methods: A chart review of all patients admitted to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne with a diagnosis of orbital cellulitis for the period July 1993 to July 1997.

Results: A total of 52 patients fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for orbital cellulitis were identified. Paranasal sinus disease was the commonest predisposing cause, especially in the paediatric age group. Diagnosis was made clinically with radiological confirmation in all cases. Microbiological investigation and results varied. The commonest species isolated were Staphylococci and Streptococci. Three cases of mixed anaerobes and one of Clostridium were seen. Cultures from abscess cavities and infected sinuses gave the highest positive yield (50-100%). Blood cultures were taken in 26% of adults and in 56% of children; none was positive. Treatment was either by intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics alone or with surgery to drain orbital abscesses, usually n conjunction with sinus surgery. No patient suffered permanent visual impairment other than one case of enucleation for endophthalmitis that had caused orbital cellulitis. There was one case of permanent ocular motility impairment, and one of meningitis.

Conclusions: Despite its past history of severe morbidity and even mortality, adequately treated orbital cellulitis rarely has significant morbidity today. Paranasal sinus disease remains the commonest cause. Culture of infected paranasal sinuses or pus from abscesses is most likely to yield significantly positive results in this study. Blood cultures were not helpful.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents*
  • Cellulitis / diagnosis
  • Cellulitis / etiology
  • Cellulitis / therapy*
  • Child
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / therapeutic use*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / diagnosis
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / etiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbital Diseases / diagnosis
  • Orbital Diseases / etiology
  • Orbital Diseases / therapy*
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suction*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents