Scientific article

The Increasing Burden of Emergency Department and Inpatient Consultations for “Papilledema”

Publication date2024-03-19
First online date2024-03-19


Increasing incidence of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), overreported radiologic signs of intracranial hypertension, difficult access to outpatient neuro-ophthalmology services, poor insurance coverage, and medicolegal concerns have lowered the threshold for emergency department (ED) visits for “papilledema.” Our objective was to examine referral patterns and outcomes of neuro-ophthalmology ED and inpatient consultations for concern for papilledema.


At one university-based quaternary care center, all adults referred for “papilledema” over one year underwent a standardized ED “papilledema protocol.” We collected patient demographics, final diagnoses, and referral patterns.


Over 1 year, 153 consecutive patients were referred for concern for papilledema. After papilledema protocol, 89 of 153 patients (58%) had bilateral optic disc edema, among whom 89% (79/89) had papilledema (intracranial hypertension). Of the 38 of 153 (25%) consultations for suspected disorder of intracranial pressure without previous fundus examination (Group 1), 74% (28/38) did not have optic disc edema, 21% (8/38) had papilledema, and 5% (2/38) had other causes of bilateral disc edema. Of the 89 of 153 (58%) consultations for presumed papilledema seen on fundus examination (Group 2), 58% (66/89) had confirmed papilledema, 17% (15/89) had pseudopapilledema, and 9% (8/89) had other causes of bilateral optic disc edema. Of the 26 of 153 (17%) patients with known IIH (Group 3), 5 had papilledema and 4 required urgent intervention. The most common diagnosis was IIH (58/79). Compared with IIH, patients with secondary causes of intracranial hypertension were older ( P = 0.002), men ( P < 0.001), not obese ( P < 0.001), and more likely to have neurologic symptoms ( P = 0.002).


Inpatient and ED consultations for “papilledema" are increasing. Of the 153 ED and inpatient neuro-ophthalmology consultations seen for “papilledema" over 1 year, one-third of patients with optic disc edema of unknown cause before presentation to our ED had new vision- or life-threatening disease, supporting the need for prompt identification and evaluation of optic disc edema in the ED. In the face of limited access to neuro-ophthalmologists, this study supports the need for emergency department access to expert eye-care evaluation or ocular fundus camera for prompt identification of optic disc edema and standardized evaluation for neurologic emergencies.

Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
RAY, Hetal J. et al. The Increasing Burden of Emergency Department and Inpatient Consultations for “Papilledema”. In: Journal of neuro-ophthalmology, 2024. doi: 10.1097/WNO.0000000000002120
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1070-8022

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