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  • Chris Thiagarajah MD

Tumor in my eye socket...now what?



Recently I had a patient diagnosed with this on their Cat scan of their eye socket in Denver. The patient had double vision and bulging of the eye which had been progressing over time. Her primariy care doctor luckily ordered a cat scan and sent her to an orbital or eye socket specialist for treatment.

Orbital Tumors in Denver are usually sent to orbital surgeons such as myself. Also, neuro-ophthalmologists such as myself diagnoses and monitor these tumors. An orbital tumor such as cavernous hemangiomas can be scary when seen on a CT scan. Let’s learn more about this tumor, which is the most common eye socket tumor of patients in Colorado, the US and the world.

What is a cavernous hemangioma?

A cavernous hemangioma is a growth of blood vessels that is commonly seen behind the eye in the eye socket. It is considered a congenital growth (found from birth). It is a growth of blood vessel channes in essentially a ball.

What are the symptoms of cavernous hemangioma?

The most common symptoms of cavernous hemangiomas in the orbit or eye socket are proptosis (bulging of the eye), double vision and vision issues. Because the tumor grows slowly, symptoms may not be noticeable because they progress slowly over time. Often the patient’s family may notice the bulging of the eyes.

How are these tumors diagnosed?

Cavernous hemangiomas are usually diagnosed with imaging of the orbit via a Cat scan or MRI. Occasionally an ultrasound can be used in the orbit to identify the lesion. More commonly a cat scan with contrast can be performed to identify the growth.

How is a cavernous hemangioma removed?

A cavernous hemangioma of the orbit is only removed from the eye socket via surgery. There are cases where radiation can be attempted to remove the tumor in cases where patients are not good surgical candidates.

For hemangiomas that are in the front of the eye socket, an incision through the eyelid or skin can be done to remove the tumor. This is done with general anesthesia with the patient completely asleep.

For growths that are deeper, often removing the side wall of the eye socket is required in order for the patient’s tumor to be accessed. This is called a lateral orbitotomy. In that case, the patient is also completely asleep under anesthesia.

What are the risks of removing an orbital tumor?

Any time an orbital surgeon removes a tumor from the eye socket, there is the risk of double vision, vision loss, bleeding, scarring, infection, need for more surgery. The vision loss can include blindness. It is important to weigh the options when having surgery on the eye socket. My patients in Denver receive counseling of the risks and benefits of the surgery for each particular case. Each case is different and each patient is different. Small cavernous hemangiomas can be watched especially those need the optic nerve and can be watched with serial MRIs or Cat scans.


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