Ophthalmic emergencies presenting to the emergency department at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK


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Abstract

BackgroundCommunity-based optometry services are increasingly used as a primary resource for patients with acute eye problems. The Eye Health Examination Wales (EHEW) is an example of one such established scheme. The aim of the project was to show how the aforementioned pathway has affected the presentation of ocular conditions to a general emergency department and the eye casualty department at the same hospital.MethodsClinical data were collected prospectively over a one-month period. The records of 100 consecutive patients with ocular pathology presenting to a general emergency department were analysed. Numbers were also obtained for the number of patients seen under the EHEW scheme by community optometrists for the same period. The notes of patients referred to ophthalmology or back out to the community optometry scheme were followed to monitor for re-attendance in either setting.ResultsEighty-five per cent of patients were walk-in cases. The most common diagnosis made in the emergency department was ‘no abnormality found’ in 37 per cent. Eighty per cent of all conditions were discharged from the emergency department. Fifteen per cent of all cases, mainly foreign body-related, were followed up in the emergency eye clinic and 10 per cent were sent to EHEW for follow-up. No cases re-presented to a hospital service at a later date.ConclusionAt least 37 per cent of emergency department cases could have been potentially avoided had the patient presented to the EHEW scheme. The pathway for patients to be sent from the emergency department to an EHEW optometrist does not appear to delay presentation to an ophthalmologist thereafter. Further promotion of the EHEW service is needed to change patient behaviours and reduce avoidable attendance to overstretched emergency departments.

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