Abnormalities of the cornea and conjunctiva occur in association with neurological diseases, nocturnal lagophthalmos, coma, infection, and mechanical ventilation.We investigated the incidence and causes of ocular surface disorders in critically ill patients. In a retrospective study, the presence of conjunctivitis and corneal erosion was determined by reviewing the medical charts of 143 mechanically ventilated patients (intensive care unit [ICU] stay >or=to7 days). In the subsequent prospective study, 15 patients who had sedatives or muscle relaxants administered continuously for more than 48 h in the ICU were investigated. Corneal erosion was examined using a slit lamp once a day. Ocular surface disorder was found in 28 of the 143 patients (20%) whose ICU stay exceeded 7 days. The incidence increased with continuous sedation (35% vs 15%). The incidence also increased with continuous neuromuscular blockade (39% vs 11%). In the prospective study, nine patients (60%) developed corneal erosion. A patient's inability to fully close his or her eyes increased the incidence (P < 0.01) of corneal erosion. Protective eyelid taping was effective in preventing and treating the corneal erosion. In conclusion, the critically ill often develop ocular surface disorders, especially when sedated and immobilized. A close relationship was observed between these conditions and the inability to close one's eyes.
(Anesth Analg 1997;85:343-6)