DOI: 10.1097/iop.0000000000002495 ISSN:

Subperiosteal and Orbital Abscesses: A Comparison of Clinical Features, Management, and Outcomes

Alison B. Gibbons, Ava Niknahad, Colin Bacorn, Omar Halawa, Emily Li
  • Ophthalmology
  • General Medicine
  • Surgery


To compare the clinical features, management, and outcomes between orbital cellulitis patients with subperiosteal abscess (SPA) and those with orbital abscess (OA).


A retrospective study was conducted at a tertiary care center through medical record search to identify patients with orbital cellulitis from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2022. Charts were screened for those with radiographic evidence of SPA or OA. Demographic data and presenting clinical features were compared between the 2 cohorts. Primary outcomes compared included rates of surgical intervention, reoperation, and readmission; and length of hospital stay and final vision.


A total of 189 patients, 162 with SPA and 27 with OA, met the criteria. The OA group (mean 46.5 ± 18.6 years) was older than the SPA group (mean 19.1 ± 21.4 years). Comorbid sinusitis was significantly more common in the SPA cohort (95.7% SPA; 70.4% OA; p < 0.001), while OA was more likely to occur with orbital trauma (29.6% vs. 8.0%; p = 0.003), implanted hardware (11.1% vs. 0.6%; p = 0.005), and comorbid diabetes (22.2% vs. 4.3%; p = 0.001). OA patients more often presented with a relative afferent pupillary defect (21.7% vs. 3.9%; p = 0.005), vision worse than 20 of 50 (42.3% vs. 16.2%; p = 0.005), and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection (20.8% vs. 5.8%; p = 0.036). OA was associated with a higher reoperation rate (47.8% vs. 21.3%; p = 0.019), readmission rate (18.5% vs. 5.6%, p = 0.047), and limited extraocular motility at follow-up (4.3% vs. 25%; p = 0.013); while mean length of hospital stay and final visual acuity were similar.


OA may affect an older population with a divergent risk factor profile compared with SPA. OA may cause more severe functional impairment on presentation, warranting more aggressive management to achieve visual outcomes similar to SPA.

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