Acta Neurochirurgica

, 151:325 | Cite as

Visual recovery following optic nerve decompression for chronic compressive neuropathy

  • Diederik O. BultersEmail author
  • Emad Shenouda
  • Barrie T. Evans
  • Nijaguna Mathad
  • Dorothy A. Lang
Clinical Article



Visual failure due to optic nerve compression is a common indication for decompressive surgery. Most data only refer to the odds of improvement, deterioration or remaining the same. However, patients frequently wish to know more detail about the outcomes of surgery. Our aim was to assess the visual outcome from optic nerve decompression for visual failure in detail in order to help counsel patients pre-operatively.


Sixty-eight patients undergoing 71 operations to decompress 87 optic nerves between 1991 and 2007 were identified. Thirty-four decompressions were performed via a transzygomatic and 37 via a transbasal approach. Fifty-two patients had meningiomas, 3 pituitary adenomas, 3 craniopharyngiomas, 3 chordomas, 2 adenocarcinomas, 2 fibrous dysplasia, 1 schwannoma, 1 granular pituitary tumour and 1 olfactory neuroblastoma. Visual acuity and fields were recorded pre-operatively, immediately post-operatively, at first follow-up and at most recent follow-up.


Forty-three eyes (49.4%) experienced an improvement in either acuity or fields. Twenty-four (27.5%) were unchanged and 20 (22.9%) deteriorated. Average improvement was 0.88 Snellen lines (logMAR 0.13). Improvement was seen between immediate post-operative acuity and first follow-up in 52%, but 22% suffered a late deterioration after 1 year. There was no relationship between age, duration of symptoms, pathology, approach or redo surgery and visual outcome. There was a complex relationship between pre-operative visual acuity and post-operative improvement and outcome. Better pre-operative acuity predicted better outcome and greater odds of improvement, although patients with poor pre-operative vision had a greater average magnitude of improvement.


Patients experience significant benefit from optic nerve decompression irrespective of pre-operative visual status. Although early decompression is desirable, good results can still be obtained in patients with severe visual failure. Detailed data on visual outcome can help counsel patients pre-operatively to aid decision-making and set expectations.


Meningioma Optic nerve Skull base Surgical decompression Visual acuity 


Conflicts of interest


Disclosure of funding



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diederik O. Bulters
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emad Shenouda
    • 1
  • Barrie T. Evans
    • 2
  • Nijaguna Mathad
    • 1
  • Dorothy A. Lang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurosurgery, Wessex Neurological CentreSouthampton General HospitalSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Department of Maxillofacial SurgerySouthampton General HospitalSouthamptonUK

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