To investigate whether ocular torsion and vertical misalignment differ in the upright vs supine position in skew deviation and to compare these findings with those in trochlear nerve palsy.
Ten patients with skew deviation, 14 patients with unilateral peripheral trochlear nerve palsy, and 12 healthy subjects were prospectively recruited. With subjects first in the upright position and then in the supine position, ocular torsion was measured by double Maddox rods and vertical misalignment was measured by the prism and alternate cover test.
In patients with skew deviation, the abnormal torsion and vertical misalignment in the upright position decreased substantially with change to the supine position, whereas in patients with trochlear nerve palsy, it changed little between positions. Torsion was decreased by 83% in patients with skew deviation, 2% in patients with trochlear nerve palsy, and 6% in healthy subjects (P < .001). Similarly, vertical misalignment was decreased by 74% in patients with skew deviation and increased by 5% in patients with trochlear nerve palsy and 6% in healthy subjects (P < .001).
Our findings provide the basis for additional clinical tests to support the classic 3-step test: ocular torsion and vertical misalignment that decrease from the upright position to the supine position indicate skew deviation, whereas torsion and vertical misalignment that do not change significantly between positions indicate trochlear nerve palsy.