Horizontal Transposition of the Vertical Rectus Muscles to Correct a Head Tilt in 5 Patients With Idiopathic Nystagmus Syndrome

Am J Ophthalmol. 2020 Sep;217:68-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2020.04.034. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Purpose: Patients with idiopathic nystagmus syndrome often develop an abnormal head position. A horizontal face turn can be treated with the augmented Kestenbaum procedure, while patients with a chin up or chin down position can be treated with surgery on the vertical recti and/or oblique muscles. Although rare, some patients may have a head tilt with no face turn. We report 5 patients who underwent horizontal transposition of the vertical rectus muscles to correct a head tilt.

Design: Retrospective case series.

Methods: Five cases from 2 different tertiary referral eye centers and 3 different surgeons were reviewed and analyzed. Surgery for the patients consisted of either a 7-mm or full tendon-width transposition of the vertical rectus muscles of each eye to induce cyclotorsion in the direction of the head tilt. The presenting clinical histories, measurements, and surgical outcomes were reviewed. The primary outcome measure was correction of head tilt.

Results: Of 5 patients, 2 had previous horizontal face turns that were corrected with an augmented Kestenbaum procedure and later developed a head tilt, while 3 patients presented primarily with a head tilt. Age at surgery ranged from 5 to 8 years. Initial tilts were measured between 20-45°. Surgery was performed bilaterally except in 1 patient with history of morning glory disc anomaly and therefore transposition surgery was only performed on fixating eye for that patient. Postoperatively, 3 of 5 patients had near complete (0-5°) resolution of their tilt. One patient had a persistent 5-degree head tilt and a small chin up that was nullified with vertical prisms in spectacles.

Conclusion: Transposition of the vertical rectus to induce cyclotorsion in the direction of the head tilt improves abnormal head titling in patients who have idiopathic nystagmus syndrome. This procedure was safely performed in patients with previous augmented Kestenbaum procedures with no incidence of anterior segment ischemia in our cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular
  • Head / physiopathology*
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / surgery*
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiopathology
  • Oculomotor Muscles / surgery*
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndrome
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity*