Lateral canthotomy and cantholysis

Lateral canthotomy (and cantholysis) is an incision to the lateral canthal ligament of the eye which decompresses the orbit when a retro-orbital haematoma is compressing the optic nerve and threatening to permanently damage vision.



It is therefore a sight-saving procedure aimed at treating orbital compartment syndrome.


Indications are discussed here:

McInnes G, Howes DW.

Lateral canthotomy and cantholysis: a simple, vision-saving procedure.

CJEM. 2002 Jan;4(1):49–52.


These videos demonstrate the procedure on human cadavers:


This paper describes a case done by a prehospital critical care team in New South Wales:

Hill C, Reid C, Tzannes A, Burns B, Bartlett M.

Prehospital lateral canthotomy.

Emerg Med J. 2013 Jan 24;30(2):155–6

Resuscitation Medicine from Dr Cliff Reid