Primary position and Listing's law in acquired and congenital trochlear nerve palsy

Dominik Straumann, Heimo Steffen, Klara Landau, Oliver Bergamin, Ananth V. Mudgil, Mark F. Walker, David L. Guyton, David S. Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. In ocular kinematics, the primary position (PP) of the eye is defined by the position from which movements do not induce ocular rotations around the line of sight (Helmholtz). PP is mathematically linked to the orientation of Listing's plane. This study was conducted to determine whether PP is affected differently in patients with clinically diagnosed congenital (conTNP) and acquired (acqTNP) trochlear nerve palsy. METHODS. Patients with unilateral conTNP (n = 25) and acqTNP (n = 9) performed a modified Hess screen test. Three-dimensional eye positions were recorded with dual search coils. RESULTS. PP in eyes with acqTNP was significantly more temporal (mean: 21.2°) than in eyes with conTNP (6.8°) or healthy eyes (7.2°). In the pooled data of all patients, the horizontal location of PP significantly correlated with vertical noncomitance with the paretic eye in adduction (R = 0.59). Using a computer model, PP in acqTNP could be reproduced by a neural lesion of the superior oblique (SO) muscle. An additional simulated overaction of the inferior oblique (IO) muscle moved PP back to normal, as in conTNP. Lengthening the SO and shortening the IO muscles could also simulate PP in conTNP. CONCLUSIONS. The temporal displacement of PP in acqTNP is a direct consequence of the reduced force of the SO muscle. The reversal of this temporal displacement of PP, which occurs in some patients with conTNP, can be explained by a secondary overaction of the IO muscle. Alternatively, length changes in the SO and IO muscles, or other anatomic anomalies within the orbit, without a neural lesion, may also explain the difference in location of PP between conTNP and acqTNP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4282-4292
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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