Strabismus due to flap tear of a rectus muscle

Irene H. Ludwig, Mark S. Brown, David L. Guyton, Edward L. Rabb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: To present a previously unreported avulsion-type injury of the rectus muscle, usually the inferior rectus, and detail its diagnosis and operative repair. Methods: Thirty-five patients underwent repair of flap tears of 42 rectus muscles. The muscle abnormality was often subtle, with narrowing or thinning of the remaining attached global layer of muscle. The detached flap of external (orbital) muscle was found embedded in surrounding orbital fat and connective tissue. Retrieval and repair were performed in each case. Results: Fourteen patients had orbital fractures, 7 had blunt trauma with no fracture, and 9 had suspected trauma but did not undergo computed tomographic scan. Five patients experienced this phenomenon following retinal detachment repair. Diagnostically the predominant motility defect in 25 muscles was limitation toward the field of action of the muscle, presumably as a result of a tether created by the torn flap. These tethers simulated muscle palsy. Seventeen muscles were restricted away from their field of action, simulating entrapment. The direction taken by the flap during healing determined the resultant strabismus pattern. All patients presenting with gaze limitation toward an orbital fracture had flap tears. The worst results following flap tear repair were seen in patients who had undergone orbital fracture repair before presentation, patients who had undergone previous attempts at strabismus repair, and patients who experienced the longest intervals between the precipitating event and the repair. The best results were obtained in patients who underwent simultaneous fracture and strabismus repair or early strabismus repair alone. Conclusions: Avulsion-type flap tears of the extraocular muscles are a common cause of strabismus after trauma, and after repair for retinal detachment. Early repair produces the best results, but improvement is possible despite long delay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalTransactions of the American Ophthalmological Society
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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