Background: The proper management of neurogenic visual loss after blunt head trauma is controversial. Non-treatment, corticosteroids, and surgical decompression of the optic canal are all currently considered to be reasonable alternatives. The goal of this study was to identify factors affecting improvement in patients treated with canal decompression.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of 31 cases in which transethmoidal decompression of the optic canal had been performed for neurogenic visual loss after closed head trauma was conducted. Each patient was alert and free of injury to the globe when evaluated before surgery. Surgery was performed within 6 days of injury, and all were given perioperative steroids.
Results: Visual acuity improved in 22 (71%) patients, with 6 (19%) regaining visual acuity of 20/40 or better. The mean improvement from preoperative visual deficit was 42.0% +/- 6.6%, with a median improvement of 45.2%. Both univariate and multivariate analysis suggested that vision improved more in patients who were younger than 40 years of age than in patients who were 40 years of age or older. Interval between injury and surgery, preoperative visual acuity, and the presence of optic canal fracture did not affect outcome.
Conclusion: Any future randomized trials of therapy should stratify patients based on age. Enrollment of patients with no light perception or who experienced delay between injury and treatment may be reasonably considered.