Traumatic optic neuropathy. A meta-analysis

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996 Apr;122(4):389-92. doi: 10.1001/archotol.1996.01890160031006.


Background: The management of traumatic optic neuropathy remains controversial. Reports of improvement have been published after observation alone, treatment with corticosteroids and surgical decompressions.

Objective: To systematically review the published literature about traumatic optic neuropathy using a meta-analysis.

Methods: We performed a retrospective literature review of case series and case reports of traumatic optic neuropathy. They include all English language cases and selected non-English language cases for which patient data were available. The cases were organized into four grades based on visual acuity and the locations and type of fracture. Grade 1 included patients with visual acuity greater than 20/200 in the affected eye and without a posterior orbit fracture; grade 2, patients with visual acuity between 20/200 and light perception; grade 3, patients without light perception or with a nondisplaced posterior orbital fracture and remaining vision; and grade 4, patients with no light perception and a displaced posterior orbital fracture. A meta-analysis was performed, analyzing for each case the recovery of visual acuity for treatment, fracture pattern, and grade.

Results: The recovery of vision in treated patients was significantly better than the recovery in patients receiving no treatment. No significant difference in improvement was found among patients treated with corticosteroids alone, with surgical decompression alone, or with corticosteroids and surgical decompression. Recovery was related to the severity of initial injury, as reflected in the grading system. A trend was noted for better improvement of visual acuity in patients without orbital fractures than those with orbital fractures, and also in patients with anterior orbital fractures than in patients with posterior fractures.

Conclusions: Treatment with corticosteroids, extracranial decompression, or both, is better than no treatment of traumatic optic neuropathy. Because the data are insufficient to determine whether corticosteroids, surgery, or the use of both treatments is most effective, the findings of the ongoing International Optic Nerve Trauma Study should prove valuable. The standardized grading system we developed is a useful tool for comparing studies and treatment protocols.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Humans
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / classification
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / diagnosis
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / etiology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / surgery*
  • Optic Nerve Injuries*
  • Orbital Fractures / complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones