The Phenylephrine Test Revisited

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Abstract

Purpose:

To characterize the phenylephrine test in ptotic patients to help clinicians perform the test more efficiently.

Methods:

Adults with involutional ptosis (n = 24, 30 eyes) were assessed with digital photographs for response to topical 2.5% phenylephrine drop instillation. Patient characteristics (age, gender, iris color, dermatochalasis, brow ptosis, and baseline marginal reflex distance-1 [MRD-1] height) were recorded. From the photographs, change in (MRD-1), presence of conjunctival blanching, pupillary dilation, and Hering effect were recorded at specified time intervals, 1 minute to 1 hour after drop placement. Correlations between patient characteristics and measured outcomes were evaluated using analysis of variance, Pearson coefficient, or chi-square tests.

Results:

The authors found that 73% of eyes had eyelid elevation with phenylephrine. Of these, 50% reached maximal eyelid elevation by 5 minutes, and 86% by 10 minutes after drop placement, but 14% did not reach maximal MRD-1 until 30 minutes. There is a negative correlation between the maximum MRD-1 and the baseline MRD-1 eyelid height (r = −0.5330, p < 0.01). There is no significant relationship between time to pupillary dilation with either time to max eyelid elevation or max eyelid elevation. No patient characteristic studied affected the likelihood of eyelid response to phenylephrine or presence of Hering effect.

Conclusions:

Although most ptotic eyelids demonstrate a response to 2.5% phenylephrine within 10 minutes, there is a subset of patients that respond much later. More ptotic eyelids had greater eyelid elevation with phenylephrine. Pupillary dilation and conjunctival blanching are neither predictive of nor temporally associated with eyelid height elevation. The authors did not identify any patient factors (e.g., dermatochalasis, brow ptosis) that can predict the likelihood of response to phenylephrine.

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