Paediatric pre- and post-septal peri-orbital infections are different diseases. A retrospective review of 262 cases

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Mar;72(3):377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2007.11.013. Epub 2008 Jan 11.


Objective: Peri-orbital infections can be classified as pre-septal or post-septal depending upon the location of the focus of infection. The ability to differentiate between these two is frequently difficult at the initial presentation, with marked orbital edema and pain limiting the ophthalmic examination. Hence, it is important to identify all the features at presentation that will lead to an accurate and rapid diagnosis and treatment. Our retrospective review of peri-orbital infections identifies contrasting features between these two groups that will aid the clinician in the subsequent management of these infections.

Design and setting: A retrospective review over an 11-year period of children admitted to a tertiary children's hospital for the treatment of peri-orbital cellulitis was undertaken. The two subgroups were identified, those suffering from a pre-septal infection and those with a post-septal infection. The groups were compared with respect to their presentation, clinical findings, findings on CT and surgical intervention.

Results: Two hundred and sixty-two children were identified with peri-orbital infections, 227 pre-septal, and 35 post-septal. There were statistically significant differences between the pre- and post-septal groups with regards to the following: age (3.9 vs. 7.5 years, p<0.001), medical co-morbidities (19% vs. 0%, p<0.01), a history of trauma (40% vs. 11% of cases, p<0.003), clinical diagnosis of acute sinusitis (9% vs. 91% of cases, p<0.001), and fever (47% vs. 94%, p<0.001). Ophthalmologic examination identified diplopia (p<0.001), opthalmoplegia (p<0.001) and proptosis (p<0.001) as significant features of a post-septal infection. Intravenous antibiotics were successful in treating the majority of cases, with 5% of pre-septal, and 25% of post-septal infections requiring surgery.

Conclusion: When considering the management of a child with a peri-orbital infection, features from the history and examination such as trauma, medical co-morbidities and ophthalmic signs will guide management and delineate the indications for early CT imaging. In the absence of acute visual compromise or other signs of disease progression, initial management with intravenous antibiotics for 48 h to cover Staphylococcal aureus and Streptococcal pyogenes with nasal decongestant should be considered before surgical intervention is contemplated. A multi team approach is essential in obtaining the best outcome for the child.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacterial Infections / complications*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Nasal Septum / microbiology*
  • Orbital Diseases / classification*
  • Orbital Diseases / drug therapy
  • Orbital Diseases / microbiology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents