Prompt Irrigation of Chemical Eye Injuries May Avert Severe Damage
Author: Frank R. Burns, MD and Christopher A. Paterson, PhD, DSc.
Publication: Occupational Health & Safety (April 1989)
Chemical burns to the eye are among the most urgent of ocular emergencies. The clinical outcome of the injury is directly related to the expediency with which treatment is begun. Copious irrigation is the most important emergency treatment of the chemically burned eye. This irrigation should begin immediately at the scene of the accident with any nontoxic liquid. Removal of any particulate matter must be done to prevent further ocular damage. The subsequent therapy is directed at the treatment of secondary sequelae and at preserving the globe to surgically rehabilitate the eye. Many of the treatments, which are used in the intermediate and late phases of the injury, are used to prevent corneal ulceration and perforation. These are the most difficult sequelae to threat in alkali injuries; thus, preventing the progression to this stage is of the utmost importance. Again the immediate and continuous irrigation of the eye may help accomplish this goal.
The availability of emergency eyewash equipment dispensing a safe, preserved, pH-balanced, physiologically correct solution in the industrial, agricultural and even the home setting is a necessity. The education of employees and family members in the proper technique of irrigating the eye following a chemical burn is also of extreme importance. Immediate irrigation of the eye, continued during rapid transport to a medical care facility, minimizes the damage to the eye and enhances the eventual clinical outcome.