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Ocular trauma from party balloons
  1. Southampton Eye Unit, Southampton General Hospital
  2. Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD

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    Editor,—Ocular trauma is recognised as a major cause of visual impairment. Though estimates of incidence vary, it clearly constitutes a major worldwide health problem. The majority of injuries are sustained by active and productive individuals with inevitable consequences on their future lifestyle and on society as a whole.1 .

    Blunt ocular trauma or “closed globe”2 injury caused by compressed air blasts resulting in substantial ocular damage3 4 is well recorded. However, since much of the literature relates to battlefield explosions, it is often difficult to prove that no other agent was involved. More recently, injuries from automobile air bags have been described.5-7 Such injuries are ascribed to the high velocity at which the air bag lining strikes the occupant (up to 320 km/h) and to objects trapped between the eye and air bag, often spectacles.8

    In discussions with one local balloon manufacturer, it was identified that a number of complaints are made each year to manufacturers regarding incidents involving party balloons, the majority of which relate to incidents that occur while playing with or misusing balloons. As far as we are aware, however, no injuries are reported to have resulted from direct trauma to the eye from the balloon.

    We have recently seen three patients from the Wessex region who suffered significant closed globe ocular trauma following the bursting of such balloons and are aware of a fourth case …

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