Orbital Compartment Syndrome in Severe Burns: Predictive Factors, Timing, and Complications of Intervention

Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2023 Jul-Aug;39(4):341-346. doi: 10.1097/IOP.0000000000002313. Epub 2022 Nov 17.


Purpose: Severe burn patients require high-volume fluid resuscitation, which increases risk for orbital compartment syndrome (OCS). We aimed to understand surgeons' practice patterns and to examine risk factors for OCS, timing of lateral canthotomy and cantholysis (LCC), and complications of intervention.

Methods: A survey of American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and North American Society of Academic Orbital Surgeons' practice patterns in burn patients was undertaken. In addition, a retrospective analysis was conducted of 107 patients with burns greater than 20% total body surface area at 1 institution from January 1, 2009, to June 1, 2018. Patients with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, frostbite, or no ophthalmologic consultation were excluded. Risk factors for OCS, timing of LCC, and complications of the intervention were examined.

Results: In the survey, 37 of 54 respondents had treated burn patients, of which 29 followed no protocol. Threshold intraocular pressure for intervention varied widely, and nearly all reported having seen complications from LCC in burn patients. For the retrospective analysis, 107 patients met criteria, of which 22 (20.6%) required LCC. Renal failure, inhalation injury, eyelid burns, higher total body surface area, elevated lactate, increased number of escharotomies, and greater total fluid required were significantly associated with the clinical decision that the patient was at risk for OCS requiring LCC. Fluid resuscitation in excess of the Ivy Index (250 ml/kg) increased odds of LCC 8.6 times. Average time of LCC was 15.8 hours after burn. LCC patients experienced higher rates of complications including eyelid retraction, exposure keratopathy, and corneal ulceration.

Conclusions: Severe burn patients should be monitored closely by an ophthalmologist during the first 48 hours for signs of OCS. Further studies should aim to recommend protocols guiding evaluation and intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Compartment Syndromes* / etiology
  • Compartment Syndromes* / surgery
  • Eye Burns* / complications
  • Eyelid Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Orbit
  • Retrospective Studies