Use of self-expanding, hydrophilic osmotic expanders (hydrogel) in the reconstruction of congenital clinical anophthalmos

Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2004 Oct;15(5):426-31. doi: 10.1097/


Purpose of review: Rehabilitation of the congenitally anophthalmic orbit is frustrating to both the parents and physician. Traditional methods involve using progressively enlarging static acrylic conformers to expand the conjunctival socket, followed by placement of conventional static spherical orbital implants, dermis-fat grafts, or inflatable balloon expanders for orbital enlargement. Limitations of these methods typically result in less-than-optimal cosmetic outcomes, with retardation of bony orbital and overlying soft tissue growth adversely affecting midfacial growth and symmetry. Recent advances in tissue expansion technology may offer additional, novel alternatives to conventional therapies.

Recent findings: Hydrogel tissue expanders were recently adapted for use in congenital anophthalmia. The expanders are placed in their dry, contracted states, and expand gradually to their full size via osmosis of surrounding tissue fluid, with up to a 10-fold increase in volume. Offering the benefit of predictable and controllable self-expansion, hydrogel expanders may offer yet another alternative or adjunctive therapy to the early rehabilitation of the contracted socket. Separate appliances are used for conjunctival and orbital reconstruction. Initial results appear promising. Tempering the enthusiasm for their use, however-particularly in terms of implanted orbital expanders-is the recent spate of long-term complications reported from previous uses of hydrogels as scleral buckling material.

Summary: Self-expanding hydrogel tissue expanders appear to offer an intriguing reconstructive alternative to the frustrating condition of congenital anophthalmia. Long-term safety of the material as an orbital implant has not yet been demonstrated, but early results are promising.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anophthalmos / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate*
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Orbit / surgery*
  • Orbital Implants
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures
  • Tissue Expansion / methods*
  • Tissue Expansion Devices*


  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate