Unilateral Proptosis in Thyroid Eye Disease With Subsequent Contralateral Involvement

Retrospective Follow-up Study

Diego Strianese; Raffaele Piscopo; Andrea Elefante; Manuela Napoli; Chiara Comune; Immacolata Baronissi; Raffaele Liuzzi; Mariantonia Ferrara; Alessia D'alessandro; Pasquale Ruggiero; Pasquale Napolitano; Piergiacomo Grassi; Adriana Iuliano; Carmela Russo; Arturo Brunetti; Giulio Bonavolontà


BMC Ophthalmol. 2013;13(21) 

In This Article


Background The purpose of this retrospective follow-up study is to evaluate the prevalence of patients with thyroid eye disease presenting with apparent unilateral proptosis and determine the occurrence of exophthalmos in contralateral non-proptotic eye over the time. Associated features with this event were evaluated.

Methods A cohort of 655 consecutive patients affected by thyroid eye disease with a minimum follow-up of 10 years was reviewed. Exophthalmos was assessed by using both Hertel exophthalmometer and computed tomography (CT). The influence of age, gender, hormonal status and of different therapies such as corticosteroids, radiotherapy and surgical decompression on this disease progression was evaluated.

Results A total of 89 patients (13.5%) (95% confidence interval [CI] 15%-10%) had clinical evidence of unilateral exophthalmos at the first visit. Among these, 13 patients (14%) (95% CI 22%-7%) developed subsequent contralateral exophthalmos. The increase of protrusion ranged from 2 to 7 mm (mean of 4.2). The time of onset varied from 6 months to 7 years (mean time: 29 months). Smoking status, young age and surgical decompression are significantly associated with development of contralateral proptosis (p< .05).

Conclusions Asymmetric thyroid eye disease with the appearance of unilateral exophthalmos at the initial examination is a fairly frequent event, while subsequent contralateral proptosis occurs less commonly. However, physicians should be aware that young patients, particularly if smokers, undergoing orbital decompression in one eye may need further surgery on contralateral side over time.