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Use of a control test to aid pH assessment of chemical eye injuries
  1. A J Connor1,
  2. P Severn2
  1. 1
    Darlington Memorial Hospital, County Durham, UK
  2. 2
    James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK
  1. Correspondence to Alan John Connor, Darlington Memorial Hospital, Hollyhurst Rd, Darlington, County Durham DL3 6HX, UK; dralanconnor{at}


Chemical burns of the eye represent 7.0%–9.9% of all ocular trauma. Initial management of ocular chemical injuries is irrigation of the eye and conjunctival sac until neutralisation of the tear surface pH is achieved.We present a case of alkali injury in which the raised tear film pH seemed to be unresponsive to irrigation treatment. Suspicion was raised about the accuracy of the litmus paper used to test the tear film pH. The error was confirmed by use of a control litmus pH test of the examining doctor’s eyes. Errors in litmus paper pH measurement can occur because of difficulty in matching the paper with scale colours and drying of the paper, which produces a darker colour. A small tear film sample can also create difficulty in colour matching, whereas too large a sample can wash away pigment from the litmus paper. Samples measured too quickly after irrigation can result in a falsely neutral pH measurement. Use of faulty or inappropriate materials can also result in errors. We advocate the use of control litmus pH test in all patients. This would highlight errors in pH measurements and aid in the detection of the end point of irrigation.

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  • Competing interests None.