The orbit is a solid structure that contains the eyeball, fat, muscles, vessels, and nerves. The maxillary sinus, ethmoid sinus, brain, and eye muscles surround the orbit. Orbital decompression involves removing or thinning of the orbital walls with or without orbital fat removal. This increases the available space for the orbital contents to relieve pressure in the orbit or reduce proptosis (bulging of the eyes).
Why is orbital decompression done?
The main indication for orbital decompression is proptosis (bulging eyes). Proptosis can occur due to thyroid eye disease (Graves’ disease), shallow orbits from birth, orbital tumors, and orbital hemorrhage (bleeding into the orbit). Orbital decompression may be done for optic nerve compression.
Can proptosis be treated medically?
Proptosis of the eyes can lead to discomforts of the eyes, such as dry eyes, irritation, and watering of eyes. The doctor would advise eye drops to lubricate the eyes. Other medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of proptosis. Proptosis itself is treated surgically by orbital decompression.
How is orbital decompression done?
Orbital decompression is performed under general anesthesia. It is commonly performed endoscopically. The surgeon uses a thin rigid metal scope (a long tube with light and camera) that is inserted through the nostrils. There are usually no external incisions. Depending on the severity of the proptosis, various amounts of orbital fat and orbital bone are removed. Incisions may be made in the upper eyelid crease or lower eyelid conjunctiva, but these heal without scaring. Usually, one eye is operated at a time and rarely both eyes may be operated at the same time. The surgery is commonly performed by an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon and ophthalmologist together.
After the procedure:
Most patients can go home on the same day or the day after surgery. There are usually no eyepatches placed. The nose may be packed and dressed for up to 2 days. Patients experience pain, swelling, and bruising for up to 2 weeks after surgery. Painkillers and antibiotics are prescribed.
What are the complications of orbital decompression?
Some possible risks associated with orbital decompression include:
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Asymmetry of the eyes
- Undercorrection of the problem
- Overcorrection of the problem
- Reaction of anesthesia
McCord CD Jr. Orbital Decompression for Graves' Disease: Exposure Through lateral Canthal and Inferior Fornix Incision. Ophthalmology. June 1, 1981;88(6): 533-541. https://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(81)34995-1/fulltext
The University of Mississippi Medical Center. Orbital Decompression Surgery. https://www.umc.edu/Healthcare/ENT/Patient%20Handouts%20-%20ENT/Nose%20and%20Sinus%20Handouts/orbital-decompression-overview-2016.pdf
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
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