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An orbital decompression is a delicate ENT surgery done to relieve pressure on the eyes. When too much pressure is placed on the eyes, it causes them to bulge and an orbital decompression is necessary to relieve the pressure in order for the eyes to fit back into their sockets. 

When would you need orbital decompression surgery?

You would need this surgery if you have problems resulting from:

  • An accident or injury
  • A severe eye infection
  • Tumors
  • Graves disease

What is Graves disease?

This is an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). Autoimmune diseases are conditions where instead of attacking diseased cells and protecting you from infection, your body attacks healthy cells instead. An overactive thyroid can cause symptoms such as:

  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Brittle hair or thin skin

According to the Mayo Clinic about 30 percent of those who have Graves disease develop a condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which affects the tissues and muscles around the eyes.  Those with this disorder may eventually develop excess tissue within the eye sockets, causing them to bulge.

Graves ophthalmopathy also presents problems such as

  • Eye irritation and pain
  • Excessive tearing
  • Eye pressure
  • Inflamed, red eyes
  • Puffy eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Double vision
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes

In certain cases, Graves ophthalmopathy can cause vision loss.

What happens during an orbital decompression?

This is a type of minimally invasive endoscopic sinus surgery that is performed under general anesthesia, which means that you will be “asleep” during the procedure. Because it’s is performed endoscopically, there are no large incisions and no scarring. 

While you are under anesthesia, one of our surgeons gently threads an endoscope through your nose and the sinus near the eyes where we can access the bony structures of your eye socket. Pieces of these bones, along with some fatty tissue, are removed. This gives the eye more room so it can settle into its socket, according to information from the American Rhinologic Society

How do you recover from an orbital decompression?

Depending upon your individual situation, this type of surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, and we’ll closely monitor your recovery after the procedure. Because you won’t need an eye patch, you’ll be able to see immediately after the surgery. There is some pain the day after surgery, but this can be easily managed with medication. There may be some bruising and swelling for two weeks. We will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your progress. 

The Physicians at Raleigh Capitol ENT are Experts of ENT Surgery

Orbital decompression is a delicate procedure. It deals with tissue and structures that are connected to the eye and are in close proximity to parts of the brain. Fortunately, our skilled surgeons have the experience and expertise needed to conduct this complicated ENT surgery. At Raleigh Capitol ENT, we’re also able to offer such advanced procedures as:

If you are concerned about whether or not you could benefit from orbital decompression ENT surgery, please contact us to schedule an appointment

Raleigh Capitol Ear, Nose, and Throat is the area's premiere physician-owned ENT practice with six convenient locations throughout Wake County. Our board-certified physicians have extensive experience in treating both common and complex cases to help adults and children alike. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us.


Sources not cited in article:

American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Orbital Decompression: Post Operative Regimen.”