Trends in US Emergency Department Visits for Pediatric Acute Ocular Injury

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There is a lack of literature describing the incidence of pediatric acute ocular injury and associated likelihood of vision loss in the United States. Understanding national pediatric eye injury trends may inform future efforts to prevent ocular trauma.


To characterize pediatric acute ocular injury in the United States using data from a stratified, national sample of emergency department (ED) visits.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A retrospective cohort study was conducted. Study participants received care at EDs included in the 2006 to 2014 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, comprising 376 040 children aged 0 to 17 years with acute traumatic ocular injuries. Data were analyzed from June 2016 to March 2018.


International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis codes and external-cause-of-injury codes identified children with acute ocular injuries.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Demographic and clinical characteristics of children with acute traumatic ocular injuries were collected and temporal trends in the incidence of ocular injuries by age, risk of vision loss, and mechanism of injury were explored.


In 2014, there were an estimated 163 431 (95% CI, 151 235-175 627) ED visits for pediatric acute ocular injury. Injured children were more often male (63.0%; 95% CI, 62.5-63.5) and in the youngest age category (birth to 4 years, 35.3%; 95% CI, 34.4-36.2; vs 10-14 years, 20.6%; 95% CI, 20.1-21.1). Injuries commonly resulted from a strike to the eye (22.5%; 95% CI, 21.3-23.8) and affected the adnexa (43.7%; 95% CI, 42.7-44.8). Most injuries had a low risk for vision loss (84.2%; 95% CI, 83.5-85.0), with only 1.3% (95% CI, 1.1-1.5) of injuries being high risk. Between 2006 and 2014, pediatric acute ocular injuries decreased by 26.1% (95% CI, −27.0 to −25.0). This decline existed across all patient demographic characteristics, injury patterns, and vision loss categories and for most mechanisms of injury. There were increases during the study in injuries related to sports (12.8%; 95% CI, 5.4-20.2) and household/domestic activities (20.7%; 95% CI, 16.2-25.2). The greatest decrease in high-risk injuries occurred with motor vehicle crashes (−79.8%; 95% CI, −85.8 to −74.9) and guns (−68.5%; 95% CI, −73.5 to −63.6).

Conclusions and Relevance

This study demonstrated a decline in pediatric acute ocular injuries in the United States between 2006 and 2014. However, pediatric acute ocular injuries continue to be prevalent, and understanding these trends can help establish future prevention strategies.

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