Unilateral frontalis sling for the surgical correction of unilateral poor-function ptosis.
ABSTRACT To evaluate the functional and cosmetic results after frontalis sling repair for unilateral ptosis associated with either poor levator function or synkinesis.
Preoperative and postoperative photographs and records of 127 patients who underwent unilateral frontalis sling ptosis repair were retrospectively reviewed. An eyelid crease incision was used in all cases, with suturing of the sling material directly to tarsus.
Preoperative diagnosis for all patients was either unilateral poor-function blepharoptosis or ptosis associated with levator synkinesis. Underlying causes included 75 congenital, 13 posttraumatic, 11 congenital "jaw-winking," 10 cranial nerve III palsies, 9 myasthenia gravis, 5 chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia, and 4 congenital "double-elevator" palsies. There was a mean follow-up of 11.6 months. Twenty-eight eyelids required reoperation: 11 for undercorrection, 6 for overcorrection with keratopathy, 2 for upper eyelid crease revision, 7 for correction of poor contour, 1 for a broken sling, and 1 for removal of an infected exposed polytetraflouroethylene sling. Lagophthalmos of greater than 2 mm was noted in 18 patients, 5 of whom had persistent keratopathy requiring reoperation. No other complications were reported, except for 1 suture granuloma. Good to excellent final postoperative eyelid height was achieved in 121 patients (95%) after all surgeries and with conscious recruitment of the frontalis muscle. A large majority of patients and/or parents expressed satisfaction with the final cosmetic result and were not bothered by any asymmetric lagophthalmos in downgaze or lack of a synchronous blink. However, 19 of 25 amblyopic patients were less satisfied with passive eyelid height as they failed to recruit the ipsilateral frontalis muscle to activate the sling during binocular viewing. In 17 of these 19 patients, good to excellent eyelid height could be achieved with conscious active brow elevation.
Unilateral sling provides good to excellent functional and cosmetic results in unilateral poor-function ptosis. However, patients with amblyopia usually require conscious effort to activate the frontalis muscle to achieve satisfactory eyelid height.
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ABSTRACT: Background:Although Hering's law has significant importance in the planning and outcomes of eyelid surgery, it has not been applied in all cases of ptosis.Objectives:The authors evaluate whether cases of unilateral congenital ptosis require surgery on the contralateral eyelid, in keeping with Hering's law.Methods:The records of 35 consecutive patients with unilateral congenital ptosis who had surgical repair between 2007 and 2012 were retrospectively analyzed. All patients underwent either levator resection or frontalis sling surgery. Preoperative and postoperative clinical documents and photographs were evaluated for each case, including preoperative Hering's dependence and postoperative measurements of the change in position of the nonoperated eyelid.Results:There were 19 women and 16 men, and the average patient age was 9.7 ± 10 years. The mean preoperative levator function and marginal reflex distance were 6.7 ± 4.7 mm and 0.3 ± 0.47 mm, respectively. There were significant differences in age, preoperative levator function, and marginal reflex distance between patients who underwent levator resection and those who had frontalis sling surgery. In all patients, the preoperative Hering's dependence of eyelid position did not show any decrease, and the position of the contralateral eyelid postoperatively did not differ from the baseline position.Conclusions:This research shows that Hering's law does not apply to cases of congenital ptosis. This is likely due to the fibrotic levator palpebrae muscle and its special innervations. Thus, it is not necessary to perform levator resection or a frontalis sling operation on the unaffected eyelid.Aesthetic surgery journal / the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic surgery 11/2013; · 2.03 Impact Factor
- Journal of the Korean Ophthalmological Society 01/2008; 49(1).
- Journal of the Korean Ophthalmological Society 01/2010; 51(2).
Unilateral Frontalis Sling for the Surgical Correction of
Unilateral Poor-Function Ptosis
Robert C. Kersten, M.D.*†, Francesco P. Bernardini, M.D.‡§, Lucie Khouri, M.D.*†,
Muhammad Moin, F.R.C.Ophth.??, Athanasios A. Roumeliotis, M.D.*†, and Dwight R. Kulwin, M.D.*†
*Department of Ophthalmology, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, †Cincinnati Eye Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio, ‡Ospedale
Evangelico Valdese, Torino, Italy, §Ospedale Evangelico Internazionale, Genova, Italy, and ??College of Medicine,
Purpose: To evaluate the functional and cosmetic results after frontalis sling repair for unilateral ptosis
associated with either poor levator function or synkinesis.
Methods: Preoperative and postoperative photographs and records of 127 patients who underwent unilateral
frontalis sling ptosis repair were retrospectively reviewed. An eyelid crease incision was used in all cases, with
suturing of the sling material directly to tarsus.
Results: Preoperative diagnosis for all patients was either unilateral poor-function blepharoptosis or ptosis
associated with levator synkinesis. Underlying causes included 75 congenital, 13 posttraumatic, 11 congenital
“jaw-winking,” 10 cranial nerve III palsies, 9 myasthenia gravis, 5 chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia,
and 4 congenital “double-elevator” palsies. There was a mean follow-up of 11.6 months. Twenty-eight eyelids
required reoperation: 11 for undercorrection, 6 for overcorrection with keratopathy, 2 for upper eyelid crease
revision, 7 for correction of poor contour, 1 for a broken sling, and 1 for removal of an infected exposed
polytetraflouroethylene sling. Lagophthalmos of greater than 2 mm was noted in 18 patients, 5 of whom had
persistent keratopathy requiring reoperation. No other complications were reported, except for 1 suture granu-
loma. Good to excellent final postoperative eyelid height was achieved in 121 patients (95%) after all surgeries
and with conscious recruitment of the frontalis muscle. A large majority of patients and/or parents expressed
satisfaction with the final cosmetic result and were not bothered by any asymmetric lagophthalmos in downgaze
or lack of a synchronous blink. However, 19 of 25 amblyopic patients were less satisfied with passive eyelid
height as they failed to recruit the ipsilateral frontalis muscle to activate the sling during binocular viewing. In
17 of these 19 patients, good to excellent eyelid height could be achieved with conscious active brow elevation.
Unilateral sling provides good to excellent functional and cosmetic results in unilateral
poor-function ptosis. However, patients with amblyopia usually require conscious effort to activate the frontalis
muscle to achieve satisfactory eyelid height.
yet to be established.1Although authors agree on the
need for frontalis suspension of the affected eyelid,
management of the contralateral eyelid remains contro-
versial. Three approaches to the contralateral eyelid have
been advocated: to leave it undisturbed,1to suspend it
from the frontalis muscle without excising the levator
muscle,2or to extirpate the levator muscle so as to create
a bilateral ptosis that is then corrected through a bilateral
frontalis suspension.3Khwarg et al.4favored a bilateral
frontalis suspension with contralateral levator weakening
as the appropriate alternative for the treatment of Marcus
he ideal treatment of unilateral blepharoptosis with
poor or asynchronous levator muscle function has
Gunn jaw-winking ptosis. Similarly, in a more recent
report, Bowyer and Sullivan5recommended bilateral
levator weakening followed by frontalis suspension “to
ensure a symmetrical result in primary gaze and down-
gaze.” In contrast, our approach has been to initially
perform unilateral suspension, with the possibility of
subsequent contralateral surgery if the postoperative re-
sult is judged unsatisfactory. Herein we report our results
after unilateral frontalis suspension for correction of
The records of all patients who underwent a unilateral
frontalis suspension procedure to treat unilateral ptosis by four
of the authors from 1989 to 2001 were retrospectively re-
viewed. Preoperative and postoperative photographs in primary
gaze and downgaze were compared and used in conjunction
with the notes in the medical records to rate the final results.
The underlying causes of ptosis is our series are listed in the
Accepted April 27, 2005.
Presented in part at the 2003 Annual Scientific Symposium of the
American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,
Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Vol. 21, No. 6, pp 412–417
©2005 The American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Inc.
Table. In all patients, margin reflex distances (MRD1) in
primary gaze with frontalis muscle at rest were less than 1 mm.
Levator function measured less than 5 mm in the majority of
patients. Levator function was greater than 5 mm in some
myasthenic patients (where upper eyelid height and function
were variable) and in some patients with jaw-winking synki-
Informed consent was obtained from all patients or parents
before surgery. Patients and/or parents were advised of the
various options of repairing unilateral ptosis including unilat-
eral frontalis suspension, bilateral frontalis suspension, or bi-
lateral suspension with contralateral levator extirpation. Uni-
lateral frontalis suspension was recommended, but the option of
subsequent suspension of the contralateral eyelid was offered in
the event of unsatisfactory postoperative asymmetry.
Surgery was performed under general anesthesia for all
children and local anesthesia with sedation in all adults. Five to
6 ml of a 1:1, 2% lidocaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine and
0.5% bupivacaine was injected in surgical sites. The operative
steps are outlined in Figure 1. Marks for the suprabrow inci-
sions are made at the superior border of the eyebrow above the
medial and lateral canthi, and a third incision site is marked
halfway between these two. An eyelid crease incision site is
marked in symmetry with the contralateral upper eyelid. Cuta-
neous incisions are made with a No. 15 blade at the three
suprabrow sites, and 6-mm subcutaneous pockets are dissected.
The eyelid crease is incised; dissection is carried through the
orbicularis muscle and levator aponeurosis to expose the prox-
imal third of the tarsus. The sling material (autogenous fascia
lata in 63 cases, exposed polytetraflouroethylene in 41 cases,
silicone rods in 16 cases, and supramid sutures in 7 cases) is
sutured directly to the tarsus with two 5–0 Mersilene sutures.
Superior traction on the ends of the sling material allows
inspection of eyelid contour; the Mersilene sutures are reposi-
tioned as needed. The sling material is passed deep into the
orbital septum with the aid of a Wright fascia needle and
brought out through the medial and lateral suprabrow incisions.
The ends of the sling are reintroduced through the medial and
lateral stab incisions and brought together in the submuscular
plane to the central brow incision, creating a pentagonal sling.
The eyelid crease incision is closed with absorbable sutures
fixed to the superior tarsal border. Careful tensioning of the two
ends in the central brow incision allows adjustment of eyelid
height. The two ends are tied; the knot and the ends of the sling
are tucked deep to frontalis muscle through the central brow
incision. The brow incisions are closed with interrupted absorb-
Postoperative eyelid height and contour, crease symmetry,
lagophthalmos, blink, and corneal exposure were assessed in all
patients. Based on the criteria recommended by Tarbet et al.
(“Frontalis suspension for severe unilateral congenital ptosis
with poor levator function,” presented at the ASOPRS Annual
Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1998), eyelid height was
judged to be “excellent” if MRD1 measured more than 2 mm or
if the difference in MRD1 between the two eyelids (asymme-
try) was equal to or less than 1 mm, “good” if MRD1 ranged
from 1 to 2 mm or if asymmetry was 1.5 to 2 mm, and “poor”
if MRD1 measured less than 1 mm or if asymmetry was greater
than 2 mm. Eyelid height was assessed in primary gaze without
the patient consciously recruiting the frontalis muscle. In cases
with MRD1 less than 2 mm, the patient was asked to volun-
tarily activate the ipsilateral frontalis muscle to attain maximal
Complications of infection, exposure of sling material, gran-
ulomas, undercorrections, overcorrections, exposure keratopa-
thy, or poor cosmesis were noted. At follow-up, all patients or
parents were asked if they were satisfied with the surgical
outcome and were offered a second surgery on the “normal”
side if they judged asymmetric lag in downgaze to be unac-
Forty-nine right upper eyelids and 78 left upper eyelids of
127 patients underwent unilateral frontalis sling procedure for
the correction of unilateral ptosis. There were 74 male and 53
female patients, ranging from 3 months to 95 years of age
(mean, 25.2 years old). Thirty-two patients had had previous
ptosis surgery performed elsewhere. Twenty-three patients had
strabismus and 25 had amblyopia on the side of the ptotic
eyelid. With a mean follow-up of 11.6 months (range, 1 week
to 96 months), final eyelid height was rated good to excellent
in 121 of 127 cases (95%) after all surgeries and with the active
recruitment of the frontalis muscle (Fig. 2). The contour was
found to be excellent in 93% of eyelids. Contour was rated
unsatisfactory if it was peaked, asymmetric to the contralateral
side, or still showing a substantial degree of lash ptosis.
Reoperation was required in 28 eyelids: 17 for undercorrection,
7 for poor contour, 6 for overcorrection with persistent kera-
topathy, 2 for upper eyelid crease revision, and 1 for broken
fascia lata sling that occurred during the immediate postoper-
ative period. The time to reoperation ranged from 1 week to 7
years. After all surgeries, 3 cases were still undercorrected: 2
amblyopic patients showed low upper eyelid height even with
active contraction of the frontalis muscle; one patient with
congenital ptosis had an MRD1 of 0.5 mm 1 week after surgery
and was lost to follow-up. Among the 25 patients from the
amblyopic group, 19 patients were undercorrected during bin-
ocular viewing. In 17 of the 19, occlusion of the contralateral
eye or conscious elevation of the eyebrows resulted in good to
excellent eyelid height. The remaining 6 amblyopic patients
had excellent eyelid height in repose during binocular viewing.
Lagophthalmos exceeded 2 mm in 18 patients after the first
surgery. Five patients had severe keratopathy that resolved after
reoperation. Seven patients had moderate keratopathy that re-
solved with medical treatment, and 6 did not exhibit keratopa-
thy despite lagophthalmos. In one patient with a fascia lata
sling, a suture granuloma, presumably reactive to a 5–0 Mer-
Underlying causes of ptosis (total n ? 127 patients)
Chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia
Double elevator palsy
413UNILATERAL SLING FOR UNILATERAL POOR-FUNCTION PTOSIS
Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg, Vol. 21, No. 6, 2005
marking of eyelid crease incision and medial, central, and temporal brow incisions. C, Exposure of the tarsal plate through an eyelid
crease incision. D, Suturing of Gore-Tex strip directly to tarsal plate with 5–0 Mersilene sutures. E, Use of fascia needle to retrieve strips
through brow incisions. F, Upward traction placed on the two strips to assess eyelid contour. G, Strips tied centrally to provide sufficient
tension to achieve desired eyelid height. H, Gore-Tex strips are buried centrally and stab incisions are closed. I, Appearance 1 week after
surgery. J, Appearance 9 months after surgery (the head is slightly tilted).
A, Three-month-old child with severe poor-function left upper eyelid ptosis thought to be at risk for amblyopia. B, Preoperative
414 R. C. KERSTEN ET AL.
Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg, Vol. 21, No. 6, 2005
silene tarsal suture, resolved after in-office removal of the
suture. There were 2 cases of presumed infection, both in
exposed polytetraflouroethylene cases; one resolved with oral
antibiotic therapy, whereas the other required reoperation and
sling removal. There were no cases of extrusion or eyebrow
reaction. The vast majority of patients or parents were satisfied
with the functional and cosmetic result of the unilateral fron-
talis sling procedure. The 19 patients with amblyopia who did
not appear to be recruiting their frontalis muscle during binoc-
ular viewing were less satisfied. Asymmetric lag in downgaze
was present in all patients but was never the subject of cosmetic
complaint. None requested or accepted a second procedure on
the contralateral eyelid when this was proposed to improve
symmetry in downgaze.
Resection of the involved levator muscle or aponeu-
rosis is generally the procedure of choice when attempt-
ing surgical correction of unilateral ptosis. This proce-
dure is less successful in patients with reduced levator
function.6In patients with poor levator function, “supra-
maximal” levator resection has shown variable results,6,7
and it risks problematic lagophthalmos. Consequently,
frontalis suspension surgery is generally the procedure of
choice when the levator muscle either has poor function
or is aberrantly innervated. A successful frontalis sus-
pension procedure relies on the patient’s spontaneous
recruitment of the ipsilateral frontalis muscle to achieve
a full binocular visual field.
There is controversy relating surgical options for uni-
lateral ptosis with abnormal levator muscle function.
Beard,3concerned about asymmetry between the sus-
pended and contralateral eyelids, advocated excision of
the normal levator muscle, creating bilateral ptosis, and
frontalis suspension of both eyelids. This seems to be the
preference of many surgeons.4,5,6,8Callahan2suggested
bilateral slings, but with preservation of the contralateral
levator muscle. This produces symmetrical lag in down-
gaze but allows the functioning levator muscle on the
nonptotic side to elevate the eyelid in primary position.
The two aforementioned procedures impose dysfunction
on a normal eyelid and impart some risk to the underly-
ing normal globe.8,9One of the authors encountered a
patient with ulcerated exposure keratopathy and visual
loss in the contralateral “good” eye after a bilateral sling
procedure for unilateral severe ptosis. This prompted us
to contemplate the advantages of unilateral surgery.
Some authors advocate bilateral surgery2–5to achieve
symmetric lag in downgaze and symmetric asynchronous
blink. However, in our experience, results are excellent
with unilateral surgery. In nonamblyopic patients, spon-
taneous unilateral frontalis recruitment in primary gaze is
usually present before surgery and is maintained after
upgaze caused by superior division of IIIrd nerve palsy. C, Appearance 3 months after unilateral frontalis sling. D, Good closure afforded
by relaxation of the ipsilateral frontalis muscle.
A, Ten-year-old child with history of congenital right IIIrd nerve palsy with marked ptosis. B, Limited levator elevation and limited
415UNILATERAL SLING FOR UNILATERAL POOR-FUNCTION PTOSIS
Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg, Vol. 21, No. 6, 2005
surgery, allowing full binocular visual fields. Most pa-
tients are not bothered cosmetically by asymmetric eye-
lid lag in downgaze, learning to mask this by changing
their head position. In fact, in this series, no patient or
parent was dissatisfied and requested an operative pro-
cedure on the “normal” side to achieve better cosmesis.
Less successful results in unilateral frontalis sling
surgery can result from eye dominance, amblyopia, and
failure to recruit the ipsilateral frontalis muscle; from the
cause of the ptosis; or from the patient’s and/or parents’
expectations.9,10In fact, a majority of our amblyopic
patients failed to recruit the frontalis muscle to lift the
suspended eyelid because of a fixation preference for the
contralateral eye. For these patients, it is not clear that
extirpating the “good” levator will result in better fron-
talis recruitment on the opposite side. Our experience in
observing unilateral ptosis is that frontalis recruitment is
unilateral and limited to the ptotic side. We have also
found that asymmetric frontalis recruitment can occur in
patients who have undergone bilateral suspension for
bilateral ptosis if one eye is amblyopic.
1. Small RG. The surgical treatment of unilateral severe congenital
blepharoptosis: the controversy continues. Ophthal Plast Reconstr
2. Callahan A. Correction of unilateral blepharoptosis with bilateral
eyelid suspension. Am J Ophthalmol 1972;74:321–6.
3. Beard C. A new treatment for severe unilateral congenital ptosis
and for ptosis with jaw-winking. Am J Ophthalmol 1965;59:252–8.
4. Khwarg SI, Tarbet KJ, Dortzbach RK, Lucarelli MJ. Management
of moderate to severe Marcus Gunn jaw winking ptosis. Ophthal-
5. Bowyer JD, Sullivan JS. Management of Marcus Gunn jaw wink-
ing synkinesis. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 2004;20:92–98.
6. Deenstra W, Melis P, Kon M, Werker P. Correction of severe
blepharoptosis. Ann Plast Surg 1996;36:348–53.
7. Epstein GA, Putterman AM. Super-maximum levator resection for
severe unilateral congenital blepharoptosis. Ophthalmic Surg
8. Crawford JS. Repair of ptosis using frontalis muscle and fascia
lata: a 20-year review. Ophthalmic Surg 1977;8:31–40.
9. Iliff CE. Complications of ptosis surgery. J Pediatr Ophthalmol
10. Crawford JS. Discussion with parents. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Stra-
bismus 1982; 19:248–9.
COMMENTARY ON UNILATERAL
FRONTALIS SLING FOR THE SURGICAL
CORRECTION OF UNILATERAL POOR-
To the uninitiated, repair of blepharoptosis seems
straightforward. Unfortunately, the ophthalmic facial
plastic surgeon realizes that these cases are, in fact, quite
challenging. The most difficult cases include unilateral
ptosis with poor levator function. This situation may
arise from congenital myogenic ptosis, IIIrd-nerve pal-
sies, Marcus Gunn jaw-wink ptosis, trauma, and varia-
tions of progressive external ophthalmoplegia and my-
Given the poor levator function (?4 mm) in these
cases, maximal levator resection tends to undercorrect
patients in primary position, and asymmetry persists
between the eyelids in upgaze and downgaze. Therefore,
frontalis slings are often preferred, as they at least typi-
cally achieve symmetry in primary position, although
upgaze and downgaze asymmetries continue.
Technically, the problem with the unilateral sling is
that the good eye can be opened without frontalis muscle
use; thus there is little incentive for the patient to use the
frontalis to elevate the ptotic eyelid. By addressing this
issue, good symmetry can usually be obtained in primary
position by placing the ptotic eyelid at the desired “open”
position without frontalis action. The orbicularis oculi
muscle can be forcefully used to help close the eye. The
simplest frontalis suspension approach includes a unilat-
eral silicone sling of the affected side. The beauty of this
material is that it can be tightened, loosened, or removed
years later through a small frontal incision.1Other ma-
terials may be preferable on a case-by-case basis. There
is increasing agreement that early placement in young
children appears to yield the best results, as suggested by
Kersten et al.
Alternatively, Beard2described the weakening of the
normal levator muscle, thus creating bilateral severe
ptosis. This can be treated with bilateral frontalis slings,
and good upper eyelid symmetry can be achieved in all
positions of gaze, although there will be equal lagoph-
thalmos in downgaze. The biggest problem with this
approach is that most patients, or families of patients, are
reluctant to destroy a normal levator for the sake of
cosmesis.3Therefore, many surgeons prefer to leave the
normal levator alone, yet place bilateral “tight” slings at
the desired “open” level with the frontalis relaxed
(“Chicken” Beard procedure).4In this way, symmetry is
achieved in primary position and downgaze (the normal
eyelid movement is restricted by the sling in these
positions, just as the abnormal side). However, there is
still asymmetry in upgaze.
Kersten et al. present an interesting series reporting
excellent success with unilateral slings. Although I agree
that unilateral slings can be useful, it is unclear that this
work validates this point. The paper is retrospective and
measures success on the basis of patient photos and chart
notes, with comments such as “the patients and/or par-
ents expressed satisfaction with the cosmetic result . . . ”
Further, the follow-up is limited in many of the cases
(mean, less than 1 year). These issues raise concern as to
the value of their “success” scoring.
The authors also included cases in this series in which
the ptosis had various causes, including congenital pto-
sis, trauma, jaw-wink, IIIrd-nerve palsies, myasthenia
gravis, chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia,
and “double elevator” palsies. These all have unique
characteristics that predispose to various postoperative
Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg, Vol. 21, No. 6, 2005