Strabismus surgery for adults: a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology. 2004 Jun;111(6):1255-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2004.03.013.


Objective: To describe the effectiveness and safety of surgical treatment of adult patients with strabismus, and to review the reported functional benefits and complications of strabismus surgery for adults.

Methods: A literature search was conducted in September 2001. It was repeated and updated in April 2003, with retrieval of relevant citations. Panel members reviewed the articles and rated them according to their relevance to the topic and methodology.

Results: The literature search identified 49 reports that describe the surgical treatment of strabismus in adult patients and meet predetermined review criteria. Of these reports, 2 were of randomized controlled trials, and 1 addressed the primary objective of this review. In this randomized study of adults with strabismus, direct comparison of surgical correction with botulinum toxin A chemodenervation indicated that surgical treatment was superior to botulinum toxin A in realigning the eyes (76.9% vs. 29.4%, P = 0.027). Several large case series of adults with strabismus (level III evidence) with successful surgical realignment rates of 68% to 85% have been reported. Functional benefits of surgical treatment are reported in many patients. These include elimination of diplopia, development of binocular fusion, expansion of binocular visual fields, and improvement of head position. Surgical complications, including new, postoperative diplopia (1%-14%) or scleral perforation (0.8%-1.8%), occur in a minority of patients. Unplanned reoperations (subsequent strabismus procedures that were not anticipated as part of a staged treatment) were needed in up to 21% of patients in large case series of comitant strabismus, and in up to 50% of patients with thyroid ophthalmopathy.

Conclusions: Despite the paucity of level I evidence from randomized controlled trials, the existing literature suggests that surgical treatment of adults with strabismus is safe and effective in improving ocular alignment. In many cases it improves visual function, based largely on level III evidence. Risks include unplanned reoperation, postoperative diplopia, and scleral perforation. Additional level I studies of surgical treatment of adult patients would help to document the effectiveness and substantiate the safety of this treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Oculomotor Muscles / surgery
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Strabismus / surgery*
  • Sympathectomy, Chemical
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical