Pediatric medial subperiosteal orbital abscess: Medical management where possible

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American Journal of Rhinology








Background: Controversy exists about the optimal management of subperiosteal orbital abscesses (SPOAs) in pediatric patients. Some otolaryngologists advocate immediate surgical drainage while others recommend medical management initially and reserve surgery for nonresponders. We hypothesized that patients who can be managed without surgery have identifiable features on presentation that may aid in predicting their response to medical therapy. Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on all patients ≤18 years of age who were admitted to the University of Iowa between 1984 and 2001 with findings consistent with an SPOA on computed tomography imaging. Patients were divided into two groups: group I received medical treatment only while group II underwent surgical drainage of the abscess. Presenting features were compared between the two groups. Results: Forty-two patients were identified with 17 group I patients and 25 group II patients. All patients had resolution of their SPOA and favorable outcomes. The following variables attained significance: group I patients were younger than group II patients (5.1 years versus 11 years; p < 0.0001), had less restriction of ocular motility (-1.0 versus -2.3), and were hospitalized for fewer days (6.5 days versus 9.6 days; p = 0.011). The following clinical variables did not vary significantly between the groups: gender, side of abscess, temperature, total white blood cell count, neutrophil count, chemosis, visual acuity, and proptosis. Culture results predominantly showed growth of anaerobic organisms (7/23). With increasing age, there was an increase in the number of organisms cultured (p = 0.005). Conclusion: A subset of patients with SPOAs can be managed medically. These patients tend to be younger and present with minimal restriction of ocular motility. Copyright © 2004, OceanSide Publications, Inc., U.S.A.

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