Ocular Morbidity Associated with Airbag Deployment: A Report of Seven Cases and a Review of the Literature

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Abstract

Purpose.

To review ocular injuries secondary to airbag deployment that were seen in our institution and were reported in the literature.

Methods.

Patients examined at our institution between 1997 and 2000 were evaluated for ocular injuries caused by airbags. A review of the medical literature using Medline was performed. All reports involving ocular injuries secondary to airbags were included in this study.

Results.

Seven cases from our medical center were identified to involve airbag-related eye injuries. The ages of the patients ranged from 4 to 73 years. Ocular injuries included corneal abrasion, corneal decompensation, corneal alkali injury, hyphema, iris sphincter tears, vitreous hemorrhage, macular retinal pigment epithelium disruption, dislocated posterior chamber intraocular lens, and commotio retinae. A review of the medical literature showed 74 cases involving 80 eyes. The ages of the patients ranged from 2 to 81 years. Males slightly outnumbered females by a ratio of 1.1 to 1.0. The speed of the vehicles ranged from 0 to 65 miles per hour, with an average reported speed of 31 miles per hour. Reported injuries ranged from mild corneal abrasions to open globes.

Conclusions.

Ocular morbidity secondary to airbag deployment must be recognized as a significant risk for motor vehicle drivers and passengers. Improvements in airbag safety will include increased consumer awareness and manufacturer design modification.

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