Strabismus surgery

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Isolating the inferior rectus muscle
Disinserting the medial rectus muscle

Strabismus surgery (also: extraocular muscle surgery, eye muscle surgery, or eye alignment surgery) is surgery on the extraocular muscles to correct the misalignment of the eyes. With approximately 1.2 million procedures each year, extraocular muscle surgery is the third most common eye surgery in the United States.[1]

The earliest successful strabismus surgery intervention is known to have been performed on 26 October 1839 by Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach on a 7-year-old esotropic child; a few earlier attempts had been performed in 1818 by William Gibson of Baltimore, a general surgeon and professor at the University of Maryland.[2]


Strabismus surgery is a one-day procedure. The patient spends only a few hours in the hospital with minimal preoperative preparation. The average duration of the surgery is variable. After surgery, the patient should expect soreness and redness. In cases of re-operations, more pain is expected. Resection of the muscles is more painful in the post operative period than recession. It also leaves redness that lasts longer and may cause some vomiting in the early post operative period.

The surgeon will provide the patient with a cover for his or her eyes that prevents light from entering. It is advisable for the patient to wear this, since stimulus to the eye (e.g., light, rolling of eyes) will cause discomfort.


Alignment and functional changes[edit]

Over- and undercorrection: Surgical intervention can result in the eyes being entirely aligned (orthophoria) or nearly so, or it can result in an over- or undercorrection that may necessitate further treatment or another surgical intervention. The likelihood that the eyes will stay aligned over the longer term is higher if the patient is able to achieve some degree of binocular fusion after surgery than if not. In a study on infantile esotropia patients who had either small-angle (8 diopters) esotropia or small-angle exotropia of the same size six months after the intervention, it was found that those who had the small-angle esotropia were more likely to have aligned eyes five years after the intervention than those with small-angle exotropia.[8] There is tentative evidence that children with infantile esotropia patients achieve better binocular vision post-operatively if the surgical treatment is performed early (see: Infantile esotropia#Surgery).

Other deviations: Strabismus surgery for oblique muscle disorders may result in consecutive misalignment of the eyes. First of all, dissociated vertical deviation may occur. There are indications that the severity of this deviation may be lower if a child is operated at a very young age.[9] Secondly, strabismus surgery may also result in subjective and objective cyclodeviation, possibly resulting in cyclotropia and rotational double vision (cyclodiplopia) if the visual system cannot compensate for it.[10][11]

For pure horizontal rectus muscle surgeries, it is known that vertical deviations, A and V patterns and cyclotropia can be anticipated or avoided by taking certain surgical precautions.[12]

Functional considerations: A frequent outcome of strabismus surgery is consecutive microtropia (also known as monofixation syndrome).[13]

Functional improvements and further benefits: For a long time it was thought that adult patients with long-standing strabismus could achieve only cosmetic improvement; in recent years there have been cases in which sensory fusion has occurred also in this type of patients provided that postoperative motor alignment is very high.[14] In case of pre-operative inward squint the correction expands the binocular visual field of the patient, improving peripheral vision. Furthermore, the restoration of ocular alignment can bring about psychosocial and economic benefits to the patient (see also: Psychosocial effects of strabismus).[14]


Diplopia occurs rather frequently in the first few weeks following surgery.

Complications that occur rarely or very rarely following surgery include: eye infection, hemorrhage in case of scleral perforation, muscle slip or detachment, or even loss of vision.

Eye muscle surgery gives rises to scarring (fibrosis); if scarring is extensive, it may be seen as raised and red tissue on the white of the eye. Fibrosis can be reduced by use of mitomycin C during surgery.[15]

Very rarely, potentially life-threatening complications may occur during surgery due to the oculocardiac reflex.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hertle, Richard. "Eye Muscle Surgery and Infantile Nystagmus Syndrome" (Microsoft Word document). American Nystagmus Network. Retrieved 2006-10-10. 
  2. ^ Gunter K. von Noorden: Binocular Vision and Ocular Motility: Theory and management of strabismus, Chapter 26: Principles of Surgical Treatment,
  3. ^ Surgery Encyclopedia - Eye Muscle Surgery
  4. ^ Strabismus Surgery
  5. ^ - Strabismus Surgery
  6. ^ Parikh, RK; Leffler, CT (July 2013). "Loop suture technique for optional adjustment in strabismus surgery". Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology 20 (3). 
  7. ^ Eye Procedures > Adjustable Suture Strabismus Surgery -
  8. ^ Kushner BJ1, Fisher M. Is alignment within 8 prism diopters of orthotropia a successful outcome for infantile esotropia surgery? Arch Ophthalmol. February 1996, Volume 114, Issue 2, pages 176-180. PMID 8573021
  9. ^ Yagasaki, T.; Yokoyama, Y. O.; Maeda, M. (Jul 2011). "Influence of timing of initial surgery for infantile esotropia on the severity of dissociated vertical deviation". Jpn J Ophthalmol 55 (4): 383–388. doi:10.1007/s10384-011-0043-1. PMID 21647566. 
  10. ^ See section "Discussion" in: Pradeep Sharma; S. Thanikachalam; Sachin Kedar; Rahul Bhola (January–February 2008). "Evaluation of subjective and objective cyclodeviation following oblique muscle weakening procedures". Indian Journal of Ophthalmology 56 (1). pp. 39–43. doi:10.4103/0301-4738.37594.  PMCID: PMC2636065.
  11. ^ H. D. Schworm; S. Eithoff; M. Schaumberger; K. P. Boergen (February 1997). "Investigations on subjective and objective cyclorotatory changes after inferior oblique muscle recession.". Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 38 (2). pp. 405–412. 
  12. ^ Khawam, E.; Jaroudi, M.; Abdulaal, M.; Massoud, V.; Alameddine, R.; Maalouf, F. (2013). "Major review: Management of strabismus vertical deviations, A- and V-patterns and cyclotropia occurring after horizontal rectus muscle urgery with or without Oblique Muscle Surgery". Binocul Vis Strabolog Q Simms Romano 28 (3): 181–192. PMID 24063512. 
  13. ^ Guthrie ME, Wright KW (September 2001). "Congenital esotropia". Ophthalmol Clin North Am 14 (3): 419–24, viii. doi:10.1016/S0896-1549(05)70239-X. PMID 11705141. 
  14. ^ a b Edelman PM (2010). "Functional benefits of adult strabismus surgery". Am Orthopt J. 60 (60): 43–47. PMID 21061883. 
  15. ^ Kersey, J. P.; Vivian, A. J. (Jul–Sep 2008). "Mitomycin and amniotic membrane: a new method of reducing adhesions and fibrosis in strabismus surgery". Strabismus 16 (3): 116–118. doi:10.1080/09273970802405493. PMID 18788060. 

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