A case of severe airbag related ocular alkali injury

Shawn S Barnes, William Wong, John C Affeldt
Hawai'i Journal of Medicine & Public Health: a Journal of Asia Pacific Medicine & Public Health 2012, 71 (8): 229-31
While airbags have saved many lives and are clearly beneficial overall, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) powder produced by the inflation reaction can cause significant alkali ocular injury if not irrigated promptly. Here we report a case of severe airbag related ocular alkali injury as a way to bring attention to the need for prompt ocular irrigation following motor vehicle accidents (MVA) with airbag deployment. A 47-year-old man was involved in a MVA with airbag deployment in a rural setting. Attention was paid to several other life-threatening traumatic injuries, however, ocular irrigation was not performed until some 6-7 hours after the MVA. Over the course of 6 months, airbag related alkali injury caused severe limbal ischemia, conjunctivalization of the cornea, corneal epithelial defects, cicatricial scarring, haze, and corneal/limbal vascularization despite amniotic membrane graft. Awareness of the importance of ocular irrigation following airbag deployment must be raised both in the ophthalmology and emergency medicine communities.

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