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Lower eyelid retraction is a common complication after cosmetic surgery of the lower eyelids, midface, and the adjacent face. Lower eyelid retraction is defined as the inferior malposition of the lower eyelid margin without eyelid eversion. Lower eyelid retraction presents clinically with scleral show; round, sad-looking eyes; lateral canthal tendon laxity; and symptoms of ocular irritation, including photophobia, excessive tearing, and nocturnal lagophthalmos. These patients frequently require ocular lubricants, including artificial tears and ointments, which often provide only minimal alleviation of their symptoms.

The author has observed that lower eyelid retraction is usually accompanied by midface descent. On the basis of surgical observations, the causes of lower eyelid retraction seem to be multifactorial and include scarring between the orbital septum and capsulopalpebral fascia (or lower eyelid retractors), lateral canthal tendon laxity, and midface descent. After describing the causes of lower eyelid retraction, the author presents a system for evaluating patients that can assist the surgeon in choosing the surgical procedure(s) required to correct the lower eyelid malposition.

The surgeon must know how to tighten a lax lateral canthal tendon, be familiar with the anatomy of the lower eyelid from conjunctiva to skin side, and know how to surgically elevate the midface. The techniques for correcting lower eyelid retraction are also presented.

Appropriate surgery, which is determined on the basis of the preoperative evaluation, has allowed for the correction of these previously difficult-to-treat lower eyelid malpositions with minimal complications.

(C)2000American Society of Plastic Surgeons