Orbital interstitial fluid: Evidence of a potential pathway for extracranial cerebrospinal fluid absorption

Jeffrey R. Sachs, Michael E. Zapadka, Allen D. Elster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose The aim of the study was to describe the prevalence and characteristics of orbital interstitial fluid seen on magnetic resonance (MR) images of infants and young children. Materials and Methods Fat-suppressed axial T2-weighted MR images of 100 consecutive infants and young children (<6 years) without orbital pathology were retrospectively reviewed by 2 neuroradiologists. The presence, location, and extent of high-signal orbital interstitial fluid were characterized and tabulated as a function of age. Results Orbital interstitial fluid was detected in 90 (90%) of the 100 subjects overall, present in 100% (75/75) of infants and children younger than 3 years, 75% (12/16) of those aged 3 to 5 years, and 33% (3/9) of those aged 5 to 6 years. The fluid was bilateral and symmetric in all cases. Two morphologic patterns were distinguished, which often co-existed: (1) a focal discrete curvilinear band of fluid in the posterior-lateral orbit, more common in younger patients, and (2) an ill-defined, lace-like pattern primarily in the superior orbit seen in subjects of all ages. Conclusions Orbital interstitial fluid as detected by fat-suppressed T2-weighted MR imaging is a nearly universal finding in infants and young children and should not be considered pathologic. It may have either a focal or lace-like pattern or both. Orbital interstitial fluid decreases in size and prevalence as a function of age but is still present in nearly half of children aged 4 to 6 years. Possible explanations concerning the nature and origin of this fluid are presented, including the fascinating possibility that the fluid represents an extracranial pathway for outflow of cerebrospinal fluid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-501
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of computer assisted tomography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • CSF
  • MR
  • anatomic variants
  • hydrocephalus
  • interstitial fluid
  • normal anatomy
  • orbital lymphatics
  • orbits


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