Eye care for the critically ill

Intensive Care Med. 2000 Feb;26(2):162-6. doi: 10.1007/s001340050040.


Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of an algorithm in the prevention of ocular surface disease in sedated and unconscious patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Methods: The eyes of all sedated and unconscious patients admitted to an ICU between September and December 1998 were managed according to an eye care algorithm. The applications of the preventive measures were assessed by a single observer twice weekly. The lid position, the presence and degree of keratopathy, sedation score, and the treatment received were documented at every assessment.

Results: Thirty-four patients were recruited for management according to the eye care algorithm over a period ranging from 1 to 28 days. Four patients were excluded because of failure by staff to adhere to the protocol. In 18 patients no active treatment was required. Out of six patients who had conjunctival exposure and were given ocular lubricants, four maintained clear corneas. No corneal or conjunctival staining was noted in two of the four patients whose lids required closure with Micropore tape for corneal exposure. Use of lid taping and lubricants prevented corneal abrasion in two patients who were prone ventilated. The prevalence of ocular surface abnormalities was 8.7 % where the algorithm was properly followed (23 patients).

Conclusion: The proposed eye care algorithm appears to be effective in preventing ocular surface abnormalities in the sedated and unconscious patients in the ICU, and efficient in that it may reduce the workload required for critically ill patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms*
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Critical Illness
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Eye Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Eyelids*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central / administration & dosage
  • Prospective Studies
  • Unconsciousness


  • Muscle Relaxants, Central