Aim: To estimate the incidence of severe chemical corneal injuries in the UK and describe presenting clinical features and initial management.
Methods: All patients with severe chemical corneal injury in the UK from December 2005 to November 2006 inclusive were prospectively identified using the British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit. Reporting ophthalmologists provided information regarding presentation and follow-up.
Results: Twelve cases were identified, giving a minimum estimated incidence in the UK of severe chemical corneal injury of 0.02 per 100 000. 66.7% of injuries were in males of working age, 50% occurred at work, and alkali was causative in 66.7%. Only one patient was wearing eye protection at the time of injury, 75% received immediate irrigation. Six patients required one or more surgical procedures, most commonly amniotic membrane graft. At 6 months’ follow-up, the best-corrected visual acuity was 6/12 or better in five patients, and worse than 6/60 in two.
Conclusion: The incidence of severe chemical corneal injury in the UK is low. The cases that occur can require extended hospital treatment, with substantial ocular morbidity and visual sequelae. Current enforcement of eye protection in the workplace in the UK has probably contributed to a reduced incidence of severe ocular burns.
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