Clinical manifestations of orbital mass lesions at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, 1999-2003.


To describe the clinical manifestations, diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes of orbital mass lesions at a tertiary care referral center.


All cases of newly diagnosed or referred orbital tumors at the Jules Stein Eye Institute from 1999 to 2003 were reviewed retrospectively. Demographic and clinical data were extracted from the electronic oculoplastics registry of the Division of Orbital and Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery.


Three hundred sixty-nine cases of orbital mass lesions were evaluated (167 males and 202 females; mean age = 48 years). The most common presenting symptoms were mass/proptosis, pain, swelling, inflammation, and diplopia. The most common categories of diagnosis were cystic or structural lesions, benign tumors, inflammatory processes, neuronal processes, and fibrous processes. Increasing age was associated with an increased incidence of primary and metastatic malignant tumors. Half of all cases required surgical intervention consisting of excision, debulking, or exenteration; 20% to 30% of cases were managed conservatively.


The differential diagnosis of orbital mass lesions differs across age groups. No clinical sign or symptom is specific for the underlying diagnosis and the biological behavior of the abnormal process may be misleading. Therefore, a careful diagnostic approach that considers the benefit of imaging studies must be undertaken. Almost 50% of these mass lesions can be managed with nonsurgical intervention.