Demystifying orbital emergencies: A pictorial review

Viet D. Nguyen, Achint K. Singh, Wilson B. Altmeyer, Bundhit Tantiwongkosi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Imaging of the orbit plays an important role in the workup of orbital emergencies. Orbital imaging is particularly useful in the emergency department, where clinical history and physical examination may be limited or delayed until the exclusion or treatment of more life-threatening conditions. Cross-sectional orbital imaging with multidetector computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is commonly performed in addition to ultrasonography. In an emergent setting, CT is the preferred modality when evaluating for intraorbital foreign bodies, fractures, or calcifications within a mass lesion. MR imaging is typically the modality of choice for orbital pathologic conditions, owing to its superior ability to delineate the orbital soft tissues and visual pathways. CT and MR imaging together may supplement clinical evaluation by helping establish an accurate diagnosis, providing an objective assessment of disease extent and progression, and assisting in pretreatment planning. Orbital emergencies have a spectrum of cross-sectional imaging findings in four major categories: infection, trauma, vascular disease, and inflammation. Use of a systematic approach to these entities will assist the radiologist with identifying immediate threats to vision and thereby facilitate prompt clinical management. Familiarity with the clinical presentations also improves the radiologist’s diagnostic confidence and role in guiding patient care. This article reviews imaging protocols, relevant orbital anatomy, the role of CT and MR imaging, and key imaging findings of orbital emergencies that the radiologist must know.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-962
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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