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Tractional ciliary body detachment, choroidal effusion, and hypotony caused by severe anterior lens capsule contraction following cataract surgery
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Grampian University Hospitals
  2. Aberdeen, UK
  1. Accepted for publication 4 April 2001

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Editor,—Continuous curvilinear capsulotomy (CCC) first described by Gimble and Neuhann1 has become the procedure of choice for cataract extraction by phacoemulsification. Untoward effects of capsulorhexis have not been frequently noted. Davidson first described capsular contraction syndrome as an exaggerated reduction in anterior capsulectomy and capsular bag diameter after cataract surgery.2 This specific clinical entity of “capsular contraction syndrome” is usually associated with a reduction in the capsular opening, malposition of the opening, reduction in the equatorial capsular diameter, and possibly intraocular lens (IOL) displacement.

Tractional ciliary body detachment and associated hypotony is an uncommon complication of severe anterior lens capsular contraction. Only three such cases have been reported in the literature.3 4 We report a case of tractional ciliary body detachment caused by a severe anterior lens capsule fibrosis, in which Nd:YAG laser anterior capsulotomy was effective in relieving the traction caused by the capsular contraction. We illustrate the value of ultrasound biomicroscopy (UBM) in the diagnosis and management of such conditions.


A 72 year old woman with primary open angle glaucoma and previous bilateral trabeculectomies (performed twice in the left eye) was followed up in our clinic since December 1999 for an ischaemic central vein occlusion in her right eye. She had a dense cataract in her left eye, which prevented the view of the fundus. The biometry of the left eye showed an axial length of 22.60 mm. Preoperatively intraocular pressures were 15 mm Hg in both eyes. She underwent an uncomplicated phacoemulsification through a superotemporal limbal wound. A capsulorhexis of about 5 mm was fashioned. A foldable three piece silicone IOL with poly(methylmethacrylate) (PMMA) haptics (Allergan SI40 NB) was implanted “in the bag.” The lens had an optic diameter of 6.0 mm and a haptic diameter of 13.0 mm. In the immediate postoperative period she was noted to have a well centred IOL “in the bag” and fundus showed an inferior hemicentral vein occlusion involving the macula in the left eye. At this time she had a visual acuity of counting fingers at 2 metres in her right eye and 6/60 in her left eye.

Two and a half months following her cataract surgery she was referred by an optician with deterioration of vision in her left eye. Visual acuity was counting fingers at 2 metres in both eyes. Slit lamp biomicroscopy of the left eye showed a deep and quiet anterior chamber. Severe contraction of the CCC opening with eccentric displacement of the CCC orifice was noted and the IOL was displaced superiorly (Fig 1, above). Gonioscopy showed an open iridocorneal angle. There was no evidence of any iris changes or changes at the pupillary border, consistent with pseudoexfoliation in either eyes. Goldmann applanation tonometry revealed an intraocular pressure of 5 mm Hg in the left eye and 14 mm Hg in the right. Posterior segment evaluation of the left eye showed diffuse choroidal effusion. This was confirmed by B-scan ultrasonography, which showed total choroidal detachment. Ultrasound biomicroscopy (UBM, 50 MHZ probe, Humphrey) showed a ciliary body detachment with central rotation of the ciliary body, as the underlying cause of the hypotony (Fig 1, below).

Figure 1

(Above) Anterior segment photograph showing severe anterior capsular contraction with superior displacement of the IOL (arrow). Note the partly visible iridectomy (arrowhead). (Below) Ultrasound biomicroscopy showing ciliary body detachment with central rotation of the ciliary body (arrow).  

A neodymium: YAG (Nd:YAG) laser anterior capsulotomy was performed. Four relaxing radial anterior capsulotomy cuts were made at 2, 5, 8, and 10 o'clock. The Nd:YAG capsulotomy comprised 50 shots with a power of 1.4 mJ each. During the procedure the anterior capsule was noted to be thick. Immediate widening of the CCC orifice was noted following this procedure (Fig 2, above). The IOL also returned to a well centred position. Topical prednisolone acetate 1% (Predforte, Allergan, Westport, Ireland) four times a day was prescribed to the left eye. Three days after the anterior capsulotomy, the visual acuity remained at counting fingers at 2 metres in both eyes. The left eye showed a quite deep anterior chamber, well centred IOL and fundus showed resolution of the choroidal effusion, which was confirmed by B-scan ultrasonography. UBM examination showed reattachment of the ciliary body (Fig 2, below) and applanation tonometry showed an intraocular pressure of 14 mm Hg.

Figure 2

(Above) Anterior segment photograph showing the radial capsulotomies and the widened anterior capsule. (Below) Post laser, ultrasound biomicroscopy showing reattached ciliary body.  


Capsulorhexis has become the preferred method of anterior capsulotomy, and untoward effects have not often been noted. Nevertheless, distinct complications of continuous tear capsulotomy are now recognised. This includes capsular bag hyperdistension, shrinkage of the anterior capsule opening with visual loss, and/or IOL decentration and lens epithelial hyperproliferation on the posterior lens capsule.

In 1993 Davidson first described the capsule contraction syndrome as a complication of continuous curvilinear capsulorhexis.2This syndrome is characterised by an exaggerated reduction in the equatorial diameter of the capsular bag, fibrosis of the anterior capsule, and shrinkage of its opening. It has been associated with various eye diseases including pseudoexfoliation,2 5 pars planitis,2 6 low grade vitritis,2 high myopia,2 6 retinitis pigmentosa,7 and myotonic dystrophy.6 It has also been seen in elderly patients. Commonly observed expressions of these diseases are weakened zonules or a chronic inflammation.

In general, shrinkage of the anterior capsule according to Davidson2 is produced by an imbalance between the centrifugal and centripetal forces on the capsular bag. Although the pathogenic mechanism responsible for excessive capsule fibrosis and contracture are not well understood, several histopathological studies have identified the cell types associated with pseudophakic fibrosis.8-10 Frezzotti et al 11 attributed constriction of the anterior capsule opening to fibrogenic transformation of the subcapsular and equatorial lens epithelial cells (LECs). Nishi and Nishi7suggested that this fibrosis might be induced by interleukin 1 or 6 and other cytokines synthesised by residual LECs, which in turn affect the epithelial cells in an autocrine manner.

The following three main factors may account for anterior capsule contraction: (1) IOL material, (2) IOL design, and (3) CCC opening. The sphincter effect of an intact capsulorhexis seems to be important in creating significant capsule shrinkage. Some authors believe that the initial diameter of the CCC is an important factor in its pathogenesis. It is postulated that the more epithelium that is left the greater the potential for capsule contraction.12 13 The IOL optic composition may influence the development of anterior capsule fibrosis. Davidson2 suggested that one piece PMMA IOL with a large optic would help counterbalance the centripetal forces of capsular fibrosis. Werner et al 14 in their histopathological study comparing different IOL styles found that the rate of anterior capsule contraction was relatively high with plate-haptic silicone lenses. The lowest rate was noted with the three piece acrylic optic PMMA haptic IOLs. In their histopathological grading of anterior capsule contraction with IOL materials and designs, silicone optic-PMMA haptic IOL as used in this case was rated third after plate haptic silicone lenses with large holes and small holes.

Anterior capsular shrinkage shifts the relative position of the lens equator, moving it to a more anterior location. This centripetal movement induces an inward pulling force on the zonular apparatus. Depending on the strength of this apparatus, a counteracting force might result. We feel that the smaller capsulorhexis size and the use of silicone IOL predisposed our patient to develop severe anterior lens capsule contraction. Severe anterior lens capsule contraction can exert continuous traction on the ciliary body resulting in a ciliary body detachment. In this case Nd:YAG radial anterior capsulotomy was helpful in relieving the phimosis and thereby removing the tractional force on the ciliary body.


The authors have no proprietary interest in any of the products described in this paper.


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