How to read imaging of the orbits: a pathology based approach

In this video, Dr. Katie Bailey describes her approach to imaging of the orbit with a focus on common diseases that can affect the orbits. We’ll save neoplasms for another video and focus on other pathologies here.

Review of the anatomy of the orbits. The orbits are surrounded by orbital walls and contain the globes, extraocular muscles, nerves including the optic nerve, a variety of vessels and nerves, and the lacrimal gland.

The globes. Common pathologies involving the globes include ocular lens surgery/removal, retinal detachment and vitreous hemorrhage, and phthisis bulbi (a chronically shrunken and deformed injured globe). MRI is even better at seeing these pathologies and can see tumors within the globe, such as ocular melanoma.

The orbital walls. The most common pathology of the orbital walls are fractures, commonly of the medial or inferior orbital wall. Other common pathologies include invasion of sinusitis into the orbit or carcinoma invading the orbit.

Extraocular muscles. Thyroid orbitopathy often causes symmetric enlargement of the extraocular muscles. IgG related disease and lymphoma can also infiltrate the extraocular muscles. Of these, lymphoma and metastatic disease tend to be more masslike and well defined.

Optic nerve, disc, and sheath. The most common pathology is optic neuritis, which affects the nerve itself. This is common in demyelinating disease. Perineuritis is when the enhancement/inflammation is around the nerve and has a different differential diagnosis. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) can cause distended and tortuous optic nerve sheaths as well as elevation of the optic disc (papilledema).

Vessels. The ophthalmic artery is the most visible vein and often can have aneurysms. The superior ophthalmic vein is the largest vessel, and can have varices or thrombosis (often in the setting of infection).

Retroorbital fat. The fat is important because it can be a sign that other structures are abnormal. This is most commonly abnormal in orbital cellulitis, but can also be abnormal if there is a hematoma or orbital inflammatory disease.

Thanks for checking out this quick video on orbital imaging and common non-neoplastic pathology. Be sure to check out the additional videos on other head and neck topics.


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