What is An Orbital Fracture (blowout) Surgery?

Recently, Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett underwent surgery to repair a right orbital fracture (blowout fracture), according to widespread media reports. The injury happened when he bunted a ball off his eye socket during practice. Dr Taban, assistant clinical professor at UCLA, explains orbital fracture (blowout) repair and its associated recovery time.

Trauma to the orbit and eye area most often results in bruising (black eye). It can also result in fractures of the orbital bone, most commonly the orbital floor (known as orbital blowout fracture) and/or orbital medial wall. The orbital bones “blow out” into adjacent sinuses.

Not all orbital fracture need to be repaired, since the bones of the eye socket don’t move like your arm or leg. Only large fractures or fractures causing double vision should typically be repaired in a timely fashion. Thorough examination of the eye, for possible associated injuries, is critical.

Orbital fracture repair is usually performed within 1-2 weeks from the time of injury. Sometimes the bone can be repositioned adequately but, in some cases, a synthetic material may be required to give support to the orbital wall(s). If the bony orbital rim is fractured, it may be necessary to reposition the bones back to their normal position and stabilize them with a small metallic plate and screws. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis.

The recovery can vary depending in the extent of the injury but most patients can return to work in as early as one week and can resume athletic activities in one month. Dr. M. Ray Taban, assistant clinical professor at UCLA and chief of oculoplastics at Martin Luther King Hospital, frequently treats patients with orbital fractures, using latest minimally invasive techniques.

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