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Optic Nerve Blindness Following Blunt Forehead Trauma

DOI: 10.1016/s0161-6420(82)34769-7
  • Blindness
  • Fracture
  • Forehead
  • Holography
  • Megadose Steroids
  • Optic Canal
  • Optic Nerve
  • Orbit
  • Trauma
  • Medicine


Abstract Seven cases of sudden monocular blindness following frontal head trauma are presented. The average age of these patients was 18 years. Four of the seven patients underwent transethmoid-sphenoid nerve decompression with only one of the four achieving a minor return of vision. None of the three out of six patients who failed to respond to megadose steroids regained vision with optic nerve decompression. Three out of six patients had return of good vision with megadose steroids without optic nerve decompression. Two of these three patients had a delayed loss of vision. One of the three patients with visual return developed visual loss again following a facial fracture reduction, which again responded to megadose steroids without optic nerve decompression. Another patient had visual return on steroids but also required removal of a subperiosteal hematoma to obtain near normal vision. This case differs from our other cases in that subperiosteal hematoma is an unusual complication of these injuries and caused the optic nerve compression in the orbital apex in this case. Review of the literature and our clinical and experimental findings suggest that the etiology of the indirect optic nerve injury is secondary to a stretching, tearing, torsion, or contusion of the nerve caused not only from the momentum of the eyeball and orbital contents being absorbed by the fixed canalicular portion of the optic nerve but also by skeletal distortion caused by forces remote from the initial impact. This is well illustrated by the holographic findings. These injuries cause direct injury to the nerve or vascular compromise from tearing, thrombosis, hematoma, or compression of the small nutrient vessels supplying the optic nerve. Megadose steroids appear to be useful in some cases of traumatic monocular blindness secondary to blunt facial trauma and as an adjunct to or an indication for surgery in others. The authors' recommended indications for optic nerve decompression (transethmoid-sphenoidotomy with removal of the medial wall of the optic canal) following blunt trauma are (1) delayed visual loss following frontal head trauma unresponsive to 12 hours of megadose steroid therapy and (2) initial return of vision with megadose steroids followed by visual decrease while on steroids or with the tapering of steroids.

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