Are Orbital Rim Implants Better Than Cheek Implants?

Q: I have a tear trough and orbital deformity. One year ago I had surgery in which malar implants were placed. But it is too big and was the wrong choice for me. I only wanted to make my midface look healthy. I want make another surgery in 3 months and I now think an orbital rim implant is the right choice for me. Do you have experience with this type of facial implant and what are your feelings about it? Are the risks for an orbital rim implant surgery higher than a malar implant which I have now? Thank you very much.

A:  The use of malar vs. orbital rim implants are for completely different facial problems or concerns. Even though they are anatomically close and contiguous, what effects they have on facial structure is completely different. If a malar implant was used in the treatment of a tear trough (orbital) deformity, it would have likely made it look even worse.

The midface has  six structural components to it including the orbital rim, malar, lateral malar, submalar, paranasal and maxillary regions. The tear trough deformity represents a central and medial soft tissue recession even though the underlying bone deficiency may extend out into the malar area. Tear trough, also known as orbital rim, implants come in several different shapes and sizes which differ in the extent of the orbital rim that they cover and in how much projection they provide. It requires a careful assessment of the lower orbit and cheek to see which implant is best. Even with good implant selection, tailoring and shaping for fit is almost always required.

Unlike malar (cheek) implants, orbital rim implants must be placed through a lower eyelid (blepharoplasty) incision. This induces one potential risk that does not exist with an intraoral approach for malar implants, that of ectropion or lower eyelid retraction. Careful handling of the eyelid tissues and orbicularis muscle and canthal suspension are needed to avoid this potential problem.

Of all available facial implants, orbital rim implants are the most sensitive to size, placement and incisional access. To those with a lot of experience in maxillofacial trauma and craniofacial surgery, orbital manipulations is a comfortable place to work.  

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana