Orbital Hemorrhagic Necrosis, Globe Rupture, and Death From Intraorbital Injection of 1% Sodium Deoxycholate in a Murine Model

Nathan W. Blessing, Ying Chen, Catherine J. Choi, Jugchawin Kanokkantapong, Wensi Tao, Daniel Pelaez, Bradford W. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: Deoxycholic acid (DCA) 1% is an injectable detergent indicated for submental fat reduction, although clinically it is being injected off-label for orbital fat prolapse. It is known to cause severe inflammation, local nerve dysfunction, and tissue necrosis, all of which could be catastrophic in the orbit and periocular region. This study evaluated the effects of periocular DCA on orbital and ocular adnexal tissues in a murine model. METHODS: Mice were treated via split-face intraorbital injections, subcutaneous injections, and topical cornea application with DCA versus phosphate-buffered saline. Whole heads were fixed, decalcified, and sectioned for orbital histology after 1-7 days. Matched pairs of human globes and mouse globes were immersed in either phosphate-buffered saline or 1% DCA for 72 hours. RESULTS: Six of 11 mice receiving intraorbital DCA injections died within minutes. Surviving mice developed severe orbital inflammatory necrosis. All orbits injected with phosphate-buffered saline were clinically and histologically normal. Six mice were treated with lower concentrations of DCA and all developed variable amounts of orbital inflammation, hemorrhage, and globe necrosis. Mice receiving subcutaneous DCA injection to the lower eyelid showed inflammatory necrosis, edema, and lid malposition. Topical application of DCA to mouse corneas caused no external or histologic changes. Human and mouse globes immersed ex vivo in DCA developed corneal edema and cataract formation without observable scleral changes. CONCLUSION: Intraorbital and periocular injection of DCA can cause devastating complications in a murine model, and significant caution is advised for off-label use in the periocular region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S98-S103
JournalOphthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Ophthalmology


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