Orbital Floor Blowout Fracture


A 16-year-old male presents with head trauma. The patient was in gym class when another classmate ran into him, kneeing him in the left eye. There was no loss of consciousness. On presentation, the patient complains of headache, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbance, and photophobia. He has vomited several times. On review of systems, the patient also endorses double vision and numbness over the left cheek. The patient’s mother notes he is alert but is slow to respond to questions.  He has no prior history of facial fractures.

Physical Exam

BP 130/70, HR 58, RR 20, SpO2 99% on RA, Temp 98.6 F

The patient is alert and oriented.  He appears uncomfortable but is in no acute distress.

HEENT exam with left periorbital ecchymosis and edema, with tenderness to palpation. Diminished sensation to light touch over cheek and upper lip. Nasal bridge swelling and tenderness, with subtle nasal deviation to the right. No septal hematoma. Symmetric smile.

Pupils are equal, round, and reactive to light. No hyphema or subconjunctival hemorrhage. Left eye with decreased up-gaze as compared to the right. Extraocular movements of the left eye are painful.

The neck has normal range of motion. There is no cervical midline tenderness to palpation.

The patient’s history and examination are significant for trauma to the left eye and face. His examination reveals bony tenderness, with decreased sensation to light touch, and evidence of inferior rectus entrapment as evidenced by abnormal extraocular movements. These findings are concerning for orbital blow-out fracture. There is also concern for nasal bone fracture given nasal bridge swelling, tenderness, subtle deviation, and epistaxis. Given patient’s nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and slowed responses to questions (as per patient’s mother), intracranial injury was also considered.

The patient underwent a CT of the brain and face, with thin (1mm) cuts through the orbits (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Axial CT of the face (bone window) with fracture through the left orbital floor, with herniation of the orbital fat (“teardrop” sign) and inferiorly displaced inferior rectus muscle

Figure 1: Axial CT of the face (bone window) with fracture through the left orbital floor, with herniation of the orbital fat (“teardrop” sign) and inferiorly displaced inferior rectus muscle


Figure 2: Anatomy of the orbit (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orbital_bones.png)

Figure 2: Anatomy of the orbit (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orbital_bones.png)

The orbit is composed of six bones. The frontal bone forms the superior orbital rim and the roof of the orbit. The sphenoid bone and the zygomatic bone form the lateral wall of the orbit. The maxilla and the zygomatic bone form the infraorbital rim and floor of the orbit. Finally, the maxilla and ethmoid bones form the medial wall of the orbit (Figure 2).

Housed within, or within in close proximity to the bony orbit are the globe, six extra-ocular muscles, the infraorbital and supraorbital nerves, lacrimal duct system, medial and lateral canthal ligaments, and 4 pairs of sinuses (Neuman).

A blowout fracture is a fracture through any of the orbital walls, with an inferior fracture through the floor being the most common (Knipe). It is caused by direct force to the orbit. In children, nearly 50% of these injuries occur during sports, with the direct blow usually coming from a ball or another player (Hatton).

A trap door fracture is a sub-type of the orbital floor fracture. It is a linear fracture that inferiorly displaces and then recoils back to near-anatomic position. With this movement there is concern for entrapment of orbital fat and inferior rectus muscle, resulting in ischemia, restriction of ocular movement, and visual disturbance (Hacking). The trap door fracture is predominantly seen in the pediatric population, owing to increased elasticity of the orbital floor (Chung, Grant).

Clinically, a patient will present with periorbital edema and ecchymosis. Altered sensation or numbness over the cheek, upper lip, and upper gingiva is suggestive of infraorbital nerve injury. Proptosis of the eye is suggestive of orbital hematoma. A posteriorly displaced globe (enophthalmos) is suggestive of increased orbital volume secondary to fracture. An inferiorly displaced globe (orbital dystopia) is a result of muscle and fat prolapse into the maxillary sinus. Restricted and/or painful extraocular movements are suggestive of muscle entrapment (Neuman).

In children, a phenomenon called the oculocardiac reflex can occur. Stimulation of the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve due to traction or pressure on the extraocular muscles or globe results in excitation of the vagus nerve, leading to bradycardia, nausea, and syncope. In severe cases, asystole can occur (Sires).

CT of the face, with thin (1mm) cuts through the orbit is the primary modality used for identification of orbital blowout fractures. Plain radiographs of the face and orbits are no longer the gold standard as they have poor sensitivity and specificity.  Trap door fractures may be occult, but any evidence of soft tissue herniation into the maxillary sinus (also known as the “teardrop” sign) should raise suspicion for a clinically significant fracture.

These injuries can be severe, and are often more significant in the pediatric population than the adult population, owing to associated soft tissue and muscular injuries. Almost half of children with this injury will require surgery, most frequently due to entrapment. Nearly half of pediatric patients will have ocular injuries (globe rupture, hyphema, retinal tear) and nearly one third of patients will have a second facial fracture (Hatton). 

Urgent ophthalmology and facial surgery consultations are indicated for orbital floor fractures with concern for entrapment (Chung).

Symptomatic treatment includes:

  • Head of bed elevation

  • Ice

  • Sinus precautions: no nose blowing, sneeze with the mouth open, no straw use or sniffing

  • Analgesia and anti-emetics as needed


For orbital fractures with extension into a sinus, the use of prophylactic antibiotics has limited data and often varies by institution (Neuman).

Corticosteroids are recommended for patients with diminished extraocular movements to reduce swelling and expedite improvement in diplopia (Neuman).

For orbital blowout fractures with evidence of entrapment and/or oculocardiac reflex, repair should be performed within 24-48 hours. Delayed repair (more than 2 weeks after injury) can be considered if mild-moderate diplopia is not spontaneously improving, or patient has worsening of enopthalmos > 2mm after initial edema and inflammation has resolved.  Other indications for surgical repair include large fracture (involvement of greater than 50% of the orbital floor) or multiple fractures (Chung).



The patient was admitted for observation overnight in the setting of persistent nausea, vomiting, borderline bradycardia, and diplopia. He was placed on oral prednisone, as well as anti-inflammatory medication. Overnight his symptoms and heart rate improved, although he had persistent diplopia, with diminished upward gaze of the left eye. He was discharged home on hospital day 1, with plan for ophthalmology and facial surgery follow-up for operative planning.

Faculty Reviewer: Dr. Jane Preotle



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  2. Grant, John H., et al. “Trapdoor Fracture of the Orbit in a Pediatric Population.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 109, no. 2, 2002, pp. 490–495., doi:10.1097/00006534-200202000-00012.

  3. Hacking, Craig. “Trapdoor Fracture.” Radiopaedia.org, radiopaedia.org/articles/trapdoor-fracture.

  4.  Hatton, Mark P., et al. “Orbital Fractures in Children.” Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 17, no. 3, 2001, pp. 174–179., doi:10.1097/00002341-200105000-00005. 

  5. Knipe, Henry, and Frank Gaillard.  “Orbital Blowout Fracture.” Radiopaedia.org, radiopaedia.org/articles/orbital-blowout-fracture-1.

  6. Neuman, Mark, and Richard G Bachur. “Orbital Fractures.” UpToDate, www.uptodate.com/contents/orbital-fractures.

  7. Sires, Bryan S. “Orbital Trapdoor Fracture and Oculocardiac Reflex.” Ophthalmic Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 15, no. 4, 1999, p. 301., doi:10.1097/00002341-199907000-00014.

  8. Soll, D. B., and B. J. Poley. “Trapdoor Variety of Blowout Fracture of the Orbital Floor.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 36, no. 6, 1965, p. 637., doi:10.1097/00006534-196512000-00017.