Presentation, workup, and management of penetrating transorbital and transnasal injuries: A case report and systematic review

Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2017 Mar 1;31(2):29-34. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2017.31.4421.


Background: A foreign body (FB) penetrating intracranially after passing transorbitally or transnasally is a rare occurrence. However, otolaryngologists are increasingly being asked to participate in the care of these patients for both endoscopic removal of the object and repair of any skull base defects.

Objective: To assess the presentation, workup, and management of transnasal or transorbital penetrating FB injury.

Methods: Systematic review of the presentation, workup, and management of transnasal or transorbital penetrating FB injury; plus, a case report of a 53-year-old woman with a transorbital penetrating rose bush branch. We searched medical literature data bases, which resulted in 215 total titles, which were then narrowed based on inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Results: Thirty-five cases of transorbital or transnasal low-velocity trauma that involved the paranasal sinuses were reviewed from 33 articles. The average age was 30 years, 40% of the objects were made of wood. Fifty-seven percent of the cases were transorbital, whereas 43% were transnasal. Forty-six percent of the surgical interventions were completed endoscopically or with endoscopic assistance. Complications of injury were common, with 66% of patients experiencing cerebrospinal fluid leaks; 23%, permanent blindness; 17%, meningitis; 14%, ophthalmoplegia; 9%, decreased visual acuity; and 3%, brain abscess. Our patient presented with a traumatic cerebrospinal fluid leak, and recovered well after transorbital and endoscopic removal of the branch, skull base repair, and a prolonged course of antibiotics and antifungal medications.

Conclusions: Transnasal and transorbital penetrating FB injuries are a relatively uncommon occurrence but when they do occur require rapid workup and interdisciplinary management to prevent acute and delayed complications.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / epidemiology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / surgery
  • Endoscopy*
  • Eye Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Eye Injuries / surgery
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / epidemiology*
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / surgery
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbit / surgery*
  • Paranasal Sinuses / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Skull Base / surgery
  • United States / epidemiology