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Occular trauma related to airbag deployment
  1. F Wrigley,
  2. K Hashemi,
  3. C J Blakeley
  1. Accident and Emergency Department, Mayday University Hospital, Croydon, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr C J Blakeley, Accident and Emergency Department, Mayday University Hospital, London Road, Croydon CR7 7YE, UK; 

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A 53 year old man attended the department after hitting a lamp post while driving at about 40 mph. As a result of the impact the driver airbag inflated causing injury to the right side of the face. Examination revealed extensive periorbital abrasions, subconjunctival haemorrhage, a small hyphaema, and a sluggishly reacting pupil. Fluorescein staining revealed an extensive corneal abrasion (fig 1). The visual acuity was markedly impaired with the patient able to detect hand movements only. Intraoccular pressure was 10 compared with 12 in the uninjured eye. At a one week review the acuity had increased to 6/36 with a small amount of blood remaining in the anterior chamber, no obvious retinal damage was seen at this stage. The patient made a satisfactory recovery thereafter.

Figure 1

Photograph showing extensive periorbital contusion and subconjunctival haemorrhage.


Although there is ample evidence in the literature to suggest that airbags save lives by protecting the driver against head and chest trauma, little has been written concerning the potential injury as a result of airbag inflation. A routine search using Medline has shown that airbag deployment has been shown to cause injuries to the soft tissues and facial skeleton1,2 but few cases have been reported about direct injury to the globe, occasional cases such as corneo-scleral laceration3 and lens dislocation4 have been reported.

Clearly airbag inflation has not only the potential to cause injury to the facial skeleton but also to the eye itself, the authors would therefore recommend a careful eye examination in all such injuries.


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