Correction of lower eyelid retraction in thyroid eye disease: a randomised controlled trial of retractor tenotomy with adjuvant antimetabolite versus scleral graft

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Lower eyelid retraction in thyroid eye disease contributes to ocular discomfort and an unsightly appearance, especially if asymmetrical. The use of donor scleral grafts is effective in lengthening the lower eyelids but carries a risk of virus transmission. Other techniques, including those which do not use grafts, need to be compared with scleral grafts. Recurrent retraction is a recognised complication of thyroid eyelid surgery; therefore, the authors investigated the use of antimetabolites to reduce postoperative fibrosis.


In this prospective randomised controlled trial of 25 patients (35 eyelids), the use of donor sclera in 20 lower eyelids (13 patients) was compared with partial tenotomy of the anterior part of the lower eyelid retractors (ALER) with adjuvant peroperative antimetabolite in 15 lower eyelids (12 patients). A 5 minute peroperative application of either 5-fluorouracil (25 mg/ml) in nine lower eyelids (eight patients) or mitomycin C (0.2 mg/ml) in six lower eyelids (four patients) was used to focally inhibit fibroblasts. Follow up ranged from 3 to 18 months (mean 7.8).


One month after surgery the results of both groups were similar. However, at 3 months after surgery the results of scleral grafting were better than tenotomy with antimetabolites: 3/12 patients (25%) treated with tenotomy and adjuvant antimetabolite required subsequent surgery using grafts for correction of recurrent retraction. There were no significant complications associated with the use of antimetabolites in the eyelid in the doses used in this study.


This randomised prospective trial shows that donor scleral grafts were more effective in the long term than partial tenotomy with adjuvant antimetabolite in the correction of lower eyelid retraction associated with thyroid eye disease. The use of peroperative antimetabolites in the lower eyelid was safe.

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