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Angle closure in fellow eye with prophylactic pilocarpine treatment
  2. D K FAHEY,
  1. Bristol Eye Hospital, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LX, UK
  1. Mr Mohamed qureshm{at} Accepted for publication 5 November 2000

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Editor,—Prophylactic pilocarpine is often used in patients presenting with unilateral primary acute angle closure until definitive treatment with laser peripheral iridotomy can be performed.1

We present two cases of unilateral primary acute angle closure glaucoma treated with prophylactic pilocarpine that subsequently developed angle closure in the fellow eye within 24 hours of admission.


Case 1

An 81 year old woman was referred from the orthopaedics department with increasing pain and redness in the right eye. Visual acuities were hand movements on the right and 6/24 improving to 6/9 with pinhole on the left. The right cornea was oedematous with intraocular pressures (IOP) of 56 mm Hg in the right and 17 mm Hg in the left. The iridocorneal angle was closed on the right eye, and narrow on gonioscopy (grade 1 inferiorly and closed superiorly) on the left, with bilateral moderate nucleosclerotic cataracts.

She was treated with intravenous Diamox 500 mg, topical levobunolol, 2% pilocarpine, and dexamethasone 0.1%. Review 1 hour later showed decreased oedema with IOP of right eye 24 mm Hg and left eye 15 mm Hg. Prophylactic 2% pilocarpine four times daily was started in the fellow eye and she was admitted to hospital. On review 8 hours after admission her IOP was 16 mm Hg in the right eye and 46 mm Hg in the left. The left cornea had minimal oedema and closed iridocorneal angle on gonioscopy.

A Nd:YAG laser peripheral iridotomy was performed in the left eye that night with subsequent resolution of the attack.

Case 2

A 46 year old hypermetropic woman (right eye +2.75DS/−0.5 × 160 left eye +4.5DS) with no significant ocular history presented to casualty with intermittent visual disturbance, followed by pain, redness, and decreased vision in the left eye. Visual acuity on presentation was right eye 6/9 and left eye 6/24. The left cornea was hazy with a shallow anterior chamber and IOP of 62 mm Hg. The right iridocorneal angle was narrow but open with pigmented grade 1 angle on gonioscopy. She was admitted and treated with topical apraclonidine, levobunolol, dexamethasone, and intravenous Diamox 500 mg. Pilocarpine 4% every 15 minutes for 1 hour was used in the left eye and a single dose of 4% pilocarpine was instilled in the right eye.

On review 2 hours after admission IOP was 45 mm Hg in the right eye and 26 mm Hg in the left. The right cornea remained clear, the anterior chamber appeared shallow, and repeat gonioscopy showed a closed iridocorneal angle on the right. The angle was opened by compression with a Zeiss gonioprism, and she underwent a Nd:YAG laser peripheral iridotomy initially in the right eye and subsequently in the left eye the following day.


The management of the fellow eye in acute glaucoma is controversial. Although Nd:YAG peripheral iridotomy has established itself as the treatment of choice,2 3 the use of prophylactic pilocarpine until formal iridotomy can occur remains controversial. In a survey of the members of the American Glaucoma Society pilocarpine was used as the treatment of the fellow eye when iridotomy was deferred by more than half the respondents, whereas close observation was the choice of a third.1 Pilocarpine results in miosis thereby pulling the peripheral iris from the anterior chamber angle, relieving pupillary block and increasing aqueous outflow facility. Of more concern is the possibility of a paradoxical effect of pilocarpine by a dose dependent shallowing of the anterior chamber, potentially precipitating angle closure in compromised eyes.4 5

The above cases highlight concerns on the use of prophylactic pilocarpine (especially in higher concentrations) to the fellow eye. In these cases, prophylactic treatment with pilocarpine did not prevent and probably contributed to angle closure.

Early prophylactic peripheral iridotomy without pilocarpine treatment may be the treatment of choice.


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