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Surgically induced diffuse scleritis: comparison of incidence in phacoemulsification and conventional extracapsular cataract extraction
  1. J Sen1,
  2. G G Kamath2,
  3. L G Clearkin2
  1. 1St Paul's Eye Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Prescot Street, Liverpool L7 8XP, UK
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral CH49 5PE, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Sen

Statistics from

Surgically induced diffuse scleritis (SIDS) is a recognised but less well reported cause of pain and reduced vision following cataract surgery.1

We have previously reported on complications of conventional extracapsular cataract extraction in which SIDS was the second most common.1 Recently, we conducted an audit of patients who underwent phacoemulsification cataract extraction to compare the incidence of SIDS in these patients relative to that found in the ECCE group.

Methods and results

From a computerised departmental database, 666 consecutive patients who had undergone phacoemulsification cataract surgery with intraocular lens (IOL) implantation under a single consultant firm were identified. The case notes were examined and all postoperative complications arising within the first 3 months were documented. The patients' preoperative ophthalmic and general medical histories were also recorded to identify additional risk factors. The results of the study were compared with those from a previously published retrospective study of 682 consecutive patients who underwent conventional extracapsular cataract surgery (ECCE) under the same consultant firm at a time where ECCE was the preferred technique.1

Final visual acuities reached 6/12 or greater in 80% of phacoemulsification patients and 67% of ECCE patients. The commonest complications occurring in both groups and in the National Cataract Surgery Survey (NCSS) 1997–8 are listed in Table 1.

Table 1

Postoperative complications requiring intervention


Ten (1.5%) of the patients who underwent phacoemulsification cataract extraction (including one whose procedure was combined with trabeculectomy) were diagnosed with SIDS. This was approximately half the proportion, (21 = 3.1%) of the ECCE group, but was the second commonest complication in both groups of patients. However, it does not feature in the list of postoperative complications reported in the National Cataract Surgery Survey 1997–8.2 SIDS has previously been described as an underdiagnosed clinical entity1 and it may be failure to recognise it which explains its absence from the national statistics.

Patients who had undergone previous ipsilateral iris surgery (trabeculectomy, Scheie's procedure, or YAG iridotomy) appeared to be at increased risk, although this only attained statistical significance in the phacoemulsifcation group (p=0.01). General anaesthesia was associated with higher statistical risk for ECCE patients only (p=0.009).1 It is unclear why this should have been the case. Intraoperative complications did not increase the risk of developing SIDS, and there was no association with concurrent ocular or systemic disease. The mean age of the SIDS patients in the ECCE group was approximately 11 years younger than that in the phako group (62.5 v 73.6).

It is our practice to take a thorough history from the postoperative patient. Severe pain, especially that waking the patient from sleep, is a common feature. Examination of the patient both on the slit lamp and in daylight is conducted, the latter to recognise the characteristic violaceous injection of the scleral vasculature. B-scan ultrasonography is performed to measure scleral thickness. Relative thickening compared to the contralateral eye or absolute thickness greater than 1.8 mm supports the diagnosis. Affected patients usually show a favourable response to a combination therapy with oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents,3 topical steroids, and a topical cycloplegic. SIDS should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a painful red eye postoperatively. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate therapy lead to early resolution of SIDS and improved visual outcome.


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