Morphological characteristics and clinical manifestations of orbital emphysema caused by isolated medial orbital wall fractures

Eye (Lond). 2016 Apr;30(4):582-7. doi: 10.1038/eye.2015.285. Epub 2016 Jan 22.


Purpose: To investigate the morphological characteristics and clinical manifestations of orbital emphysema in patients with isolated medial orbital wall fractures.

Methods: This was a retrospective observational case series of 348 orbits of 348 patients with isolated medial orbital wall fractures. Medical charts were reviewed, and computed tomographic (CT) images were examined to determine the morphological characteristics of orbital emphysema.

Results: Orbital emphysema was detected in 70 orbits (20.1%). Large and communited type fracture was related with the presence of orbital emphysema (P<0.05). Orbital air pockets were detected in medial or superior extraconal orbital segment in all cases with orbital emphysema. Swollen eyelid with crepitus (90.0%) and supraduction limitation (31.4%) were developed with orbital emphysema. All cases with supraduction limitation accompanied with superior extraconal orbital emphysema and superior rectus muscle deviation, and these eyes were fully recovered with conservative management without surgery.

Conclusions: Orbital emphysema can be a cause of ocular motility restriction following orbital wall fracture. If supraduction limitation is noted with isolated medial wall fracture and superior orbital emphysema with superior rectus muscle deviation is detected by CT scan, conservative management can be a good choice for spontaneous recovery delaying the surgery.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emphysema / diagnostic imaging
  • Emphysema / etiology
  • Emphysema / pathology*
  • Eyelid Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Orbit / diagnostic imaging
  • Orbit / pathology*
  • Orbital Fractures / complications*
  • Orbital Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed