Orbital complications of sinusitis in children

J Otolaryngol. 2002 Jun;31(3):131-6. doi: 10.2310/7070.2002.10979.


Background: Orbital complications of sinusitis are uncommon but can result in significant morbidity if not appropriately managed.

Objective: This study was conducted to evaluate the clinical presentation, diagnosis, management, and outcome of orbital complications of sinusitis in children treated at our institution over a 10-year period.

Methods: The study retrospectively reviewed cases of 139 children with evidence of orbital complications of sinusitis admitted to the Montreal Children's Hospital between January 1990 and March 2000. Factors assessed included the clinical presentation, radiologic findings, management, and outcome (length of admission, complications). Complications were classified as preseptal if they did not penetrate the periorbita. Postseptal complications were defined as those penetrating the periorbita and were further subdivided into cellulitis and abscess categories.

Results: Seventy-two percent of patients presented with preseptal cellulitis, 19% with orbital cellulitis, and 9% with subperiosteal abscess. Ophthalmoplegia and proptosis at presentation were found to be predictors of postseptal disease, although computed tomography (CT) was necessary to differentiate between cellulitis and abscess. Preseptal disease resolved with antibiotics in all cases. Postseptal disease was treated medically and in some cases surgically, although surgery did not affect outcome.

Conclusion: Preseptal complications of sinusitis can be diagnosed clinically without a CT scan and should be treated with an appropriate course of intravenous antibiotics. Postseptal complications of sinusitis can be diagnosed by the presence of ophthalmoplegia or proptosis and mandate a CT scan to differentiate abscess from orbital cellulitis. Management of these patients should include intravenous antibiotics, reserving surgery for selected cases.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Cellulitis / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Orbital Diseases / diagnosis
  • Orbital Diseases / etiology*
  • Orbital Diseases / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sinusitis / complications*