You are caring for a patient with an incredibly swollen eye – like a scene out of almost any Rocky film. This patient is likely going to the CT scanner, but regardless of the finding (retrobulbar hematoma, orbital wall fracture, etc.) you still need to evaluate for extraocular muscle entrapment and loss of pupillary response. There’s only one problem: you can’t see the eye. The old standards like getting the patient to retract their lid using paperclips or a cotton swab may help, but sometimes there is just too much swelling, and those techniques are just not enough. Without brute force – and potentially causing more trauma – you likely won’t be able to examine this patient’s eye.
About Nate Teismann, MDDirector of Emergency Ultrasound
EM Ultrasound Fellowship Director
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco