Failure to Obtain Urgent Arterial Imaging in Acute Third Nerve Palsies

Jennifer E. Chung, Richard M. Schroeder, Bradley Wilson, Gregory P. Van Stavern, Leanne Stunkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background:Isolated third nerve palsy may indicate an expanding posterior communicating artery aneurysm, thus necessitating urgent arterial imaging. This study aims to assess the rate and duration of delays in arterial imaging for new isolated third nerve palsies, identify potential causes of delay, and evaluate instances of delay-related patient harm.Methods:In this cross-sectional study, we retrospectively reviewed 110 patient charts (aged 18 years and older) seen between November 2012 and June 2020 at the neuro-ophthalmology clinic and by the inpatient ophthalmology consultation service at a tertiary institution. All patients were referred for suspicion of or had a final diagnosis of third nerve palsy. Demographics, referral encounter details, physical examination findings, final diagnoses, timing of arterial imaging, etiologies of third nerve palsy, and details of patient harm were collected.Results:Of the 110 included patients, 62 (56.4%) were women, 88 (80%) were white, and the mean age was 61.8 ± 14.6 years. Forty (36.4%) patients received arterial imaging urgently. Patients suspected of third nerve palsy were not more likely to be sent for urgent evaluation (P = 0.29) or arterial imaging (P = 0.082) than patients in whom the referring doctor did not suspect palsy. Seventy-Eight of 95 (82%) patients with a final diagnosis of third nerve palsy were correctly identified by referring providers. Of the 20 patients without any arterial imaging before neuro-ophthalmology consultation, there was a median delay of 24 days from symptom onset to imaging, and a median delay of 12.5 days between first medical contact for their symptoms and imaging. One patient was harmed as a result of delayed imaging.Conclusions:Third nerve palsies were typically identified correctly, but referring providers failed to recognize the urgency of arterial imaging to rule out an aneurysmal etiology. Raising awareness of the urgency of arterial imaging may improve patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-541
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuro-Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


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