Background: Progressive exophthalmos from dysthyroid orbitopathy may result in marked disfigurement. Commonly affecting middle-aged women, it can be a significant social and psychologic handicap. Cosmesis is increasingly recognized as an indication for orbital decompression. Many argue, however, that decompression carries risks of operative complications which are only warranted where vision is threatened.
Methods: Between 1984 and 1990, the authors performed orbital decompression for cosmetic indications on 34 patients (65 orbits) with thyroid orbitopathy. The charts of these patients were reviewed to assess the results of surgery and the nature and incidence of complications.
Results: The mean retroplacement achieved was 4 mm (range, -1.0 to 10 mm). In 29 (85%) of the 34 patients, there was a difference of 1 mm or less in the proptosis of the two eyes postoperatively. Diplopia arose de novo in five (18%) previously asymptomatic patients. Postdecompression strabismus was managed successfully with adjustable surgery (mean, 1.3 operations per patient). With the exception of transient infra-orbital nerve hypoesthesia, there were no surgical complications.
Conclusion: Decompression surgery is effective in reducing exophthalmos in dysthyroid orbitopathy. In this series of operations, complications were rare and treatable. Decompression is often the first of a series of operations that may be necessary to correct the cosmetic sequelae of this condition. It should be considered by experienced surgeons in carefully selected and counseled patients who have disfiguring thyroid orbitopathy.