Capsular Bag Distension Syndrome

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Disease Entity

H26.40 Cloudy posterior capsule T85.29X Complication of intraocular lens


Capsular bag distension syndrome (CBDS) (i.e. capsular block syndrome, capsular bag hyperdistension, capsulorhexis block syndrome) is a rare complication of cataract surgery with in the bag intraocular lens placement where turbid fluid builds up behind the intraocular lens and posterior capsule, eventually leading to a decrease in visual acuity for the patient.

Etiology & Epidemiology

One study estimated the occurrence of CBDS to occur in less than 1% (0.73%) of patients undergoing phacoemulsification with posterior chamber intraocular lens (PCIOL) implantation.[1] Presentation can occur within a few weeks to months after cataract surgery or even years.[2]

Risk Factors

One large retrospective study found that eyes with axial lengths greater than 25 mm were at greater risk for CBDS. Patients receiving four-haptic PCIOLs, compared to C-loop IOLs, were also found to be at greater risk. Almost all cases are associated with continuous curvilinear capsulorhexis.[1]

General Pathology

CBDS occurs when fluid accumulates between the PCIOL and the posterior capsule, leading to distension of the posterior capsule with anterior displacement of the PCIOL. The trapped fluid develops a turbid consistency which leads to decreased visual acuity for the patient and can be associated with either a myopic (more common) or hyperopic shift.[3]


CBDS can be classified by time of onset, whether it occurs intraoperatively, early postoperatively (first few weeks), or late postoperatively (months or years). Intraoperative CBDS is felt to result from high irrigation pressures during hydrodissection which hyperdistend the posterior capsule, increasing the risk for capsule rupture. Early postoperative CBDS is associated with incomplete viscoelastic removal posterior to the IOL with resulting anterior IOL displacement leading to a myopic shift, anterior chamber shallowing, and IOP elevation. Late CBDS classically does not exhibit these symptoms and is only noticed due to the decreased visual acuity recognized by the patient.[4]

There are three distinct types of CBDS: noncellular, inflammatory, and fibrotic.[3] Non-cellular and inflammatory CBDS occur in the early post-operative timeframe. The fibrotic phase occurs in the late timeframe and is secondary to residual lenticular epithelial cells which undergo metaplasia and proliferate, producing various types of collagen and extracellular matrix that accumulate in the capsular bag.[5] In one case report, retained fluid from a treated late onset CBDS was analyzed and electrophoresis showed large amounts of alpha-crystalline, confirming that the fluid was from residual lens epithelial cells. No gammaglobulins were noted, suggesting antigen-antibody mediated hypersensitivity has no role in the pathophysiology. [6]

Primary prevention


Symptomatic patients will have decreased visual acuity. If significant anterior displacement of the lens-diaphragm exists, IOP may also be elevated.

Diagnosis can be made at the slit lamp in the most obvious cases. Turbid, opaque fluid can be visualized between the IOL and posterior capsule. When the smoky, turbid fluid is visible between the IOL and clear posterior capsular, a layering effect produces a phenomena known as a retrolenticular pseudohypopyon.[2] Comparing the clarity of the space behind the IOL in the fellow eye makes the opacity much more prevalent.

Slit lamp biomicroscopy may also demonstrate shallowing of the anterior chamber, tight apposition of the iris to lens implant, anterior bowing of the iris, or late capsular fibrosis.[2]

Anterior segment optical coherence tomography (OCT) and anterior ultrasound biomicroscopy (UBM) can help identify early, presymptomatic CBDS (see various types below) as well as better classify capsular distension and/or IOL optic displacement.[7] The Scheimpflug camera can also be used but UBM has been shown to be superior when the capsular bag is very distended. [8][9]


Patients will have had cataract surgery with in-the-bag intraocular lens placement ranging from weeks prior to many years (even greater than a decade) prior with gradual fogging or dimming of vision.


Symptoms include a gradual decrease in visual acuity. Patients often describe their vision as foggier or dimmer than the fellow eye. Rarely, symptoms can also include eye pain, irritation, and/or eye redness when CBDS either leads to an inflammatory reaction in the anterior chamber or even more rarely is associated with P. acnes endophthalmitis.

Clinical diagnosis

One study of 17 eyes of 16 patients with CBDS identified four types of CBDS[4]: Type 1: Transparent capsule and transparent liquid in the capsular bag, barely noticeable via slit lamp biomicroscopy but clearly seen on anterior segment OCT Type 2: Homogenous milky fluid in the capsular bag and a transparent posterior capsule Type 3: Transparent or semitransparent liquid accumulation and posterior capsular opacification Type 4: Opaque contents and posterior capsular opacification +/- Soemmering’s ring

Differential diagnosis

Posterior capsular opacification Chronic endophthalmitis (P. acnes endophthalmitis) Chronic endophthalmitis associated with CBDS Pupillary block glaucoma


General treatment

Treatment most commonly entails Nd:YAG laser posterior and/or anterior capsulotomy. YAG allows for quick release of the trapped fluid and returning the IOL to its previous position, resolving the patient’s myopic shift and visual blurring.[5] Openings are most commonly made in the posterior capsule. However, if the posterior capsule is clear one can elect to create a small opening in the anterior capsule just peripheral to the edge of the lens implant, after which fluid will vent into the anterior chamber where it is quickly cleared through normal aqueous humor turnover. If this latter approach is taken, some clinicians recommend short course of topical steroids due to the higher risk of post-op inflammation.[2]

In early, asymptomatic cases clinicians can also elect to observe. If cortical masses protruding from the anterior capsule lead to inflammation, topical anti-inflammatory medications can be utilized and surgical aspiration may be necessary or even pars plana vitrectomy with posterior capsulotomy. If P. acnes chronic endophthalmitis is suspected in conjunction with CBDS, pars plana vitrectomy and lensectomy and total capsulotomy may be necessary.[10]

Vlasenko et al. recommend the following treatments for the previously mentioned CBDS types:

Type 1: Follow-up Type 2: If symptomatic, YAG; if not, observe Type 3: YAG Type 4: YAG unless inflammatory symptoms develop, then consider topical anti-inflammatories and surgical aspiration

Surgical follow up

Clinicians should watch for post-operative inflammation as rare cases of P. acnes endophthalmitis have been reported following Nd:YAG treatment for other indications, possibly due to release of a sequestered low-virulent organism.[11]


YAG capsulotomy is generally safe, with documented complications including a transient rise in intraocular pressure, lens subluxation or dislocation, lens pitting, or retinal detachment.[12]


Prognosis is excellent with only a few YAG laser applications usually needed for resolution of the turbid fluid. Patient’s achieve a brisk return to baseline visual acuity.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Kim HK, et al. Capsular block syndrome after cataract surgery: clinical analysis and classification. J Cataract Refract Surg. 2008;34:357–63.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Burk, R. Capsular Bag Distension Syndrome. 12 January 2015. Available at: Accessed August 26, 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Killoran E, Haugsdal J, Oetting TA. Capsular Block Syndrome: An Unusual Presentation. July 6, 2016; Available from:
  4. 4.0 4.1 Vlasenko A, Malyugin B, Verzin A, Uzunyan D. Capsular bag distention syndrome: case series and management strategies. European society of cataract and refractive surgeons. 10 October 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wendrix G, Zeyen T. Late-onset capsular bag distension syndrome after cataract surgery: 2 case- reports. Bull Soc Belge Ophtalmol. 2006;301:67–9.
  6. Eifrig DE Capsulorhexis-related lacteocrumenasia. J Cataract Refract Surg 1997;23:450–4
  7. Das K. Delayed capsular bag distension syndrome. Oman Journal of Ophthalmology. 2010;3(3):155-156. doi:10.4103/0974-620X.71905.
  8. Jain R, Grewal D, Gupta R, Grewal SPS Scheimpflug imaging in late capsular bag distention syndrome after phacoemulsification. Am J Ophthalmol 2006;142:1083–5
  9. Kucukevcilioglu, M., Hurmeric, V., Erdurman, F.C., Ceylan, O.M. Imaging late capsular block syndrome: ultrasound biomicroscopy versus Scheimpflug camera. J Cataract Refract Surg 2011;37:2071-2074.
  10. Aldave AJ, Stein JD, Deramo VA, Shah GK, Fischer DH, Maguire JI. Treatment strategies for postoperative Propionibacterium acnes endophthalmitis. Ophthalmology. 1999;106(12):2395-401.
  11. Chaudhry M, Baisakhiya S, Bhatia MS. A rare complication of Nd-YAG capsulotomy: propionibacterium acnes endopthalmitis. Nepal J Ophthalmol. 2011;3(1):80-2.
  12. Karahan E, Er D, Kaynak S. An Overview of Nd:YAG Laser Capsulotomy . Medical Hypothesis, Discovery and Innovation in Ophthalmology. 2014;3(2):45-50.