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Corneal abrasion and alkali burn secondary to automobile air bag inflation
  1. Angela Scarlett1,
  2. Paul Gee2
  1. 1
    Christchurch Public Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. 2
    Emergency Department, Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand
  1. Dr Angela Scarlett, Christchurch Public Hospital, Private Bag 4710, Christchurch, New Zealand 8000; scarlettangela{at}


A 59-year-old woman self presented to the emergency department with a painful right eye following a motor vehicle accident. She had reduced visual acuity and the eye had an alkaline pH with complete corneal uptake of fluorescein. Diagnosis of corneal abrasion and alkali burn to her right eye secondary to inflation of a driver’s automobile airbag was made. The eye was irrigated with normal saline. Such injuries, although rare, can easily be identified within the emergency department by the history of exposure, evidence of facial injuries or burns, and an alkaline pH in the inferior cul-de-sac of the eye. Early detection and management with ophthalmology review is therefore imperative to prevent irreversible visual impairment.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Informed consent was obtained for publication of fig 1.