Objective: To review the spectrum of patients with alkali burns admitted over an 11-year period and to assess the clinical outcomes after the introduction of a standard alkali burn treatment protocol.
Design: Retrospective nonrandomized comparative study.
Patients and interventions: A total of 121 patient records with alkali burns (n = 177 eyes) admitted to a tertiary hospital between 1987 and 1998 were reviewed. Eyes treated with a standard alkali burn treatment protocol, which included intensive topical steroids, ascorbate, citrate, and antibiotics, were compared with eyes treated by conservative management with antibiotics, and a short course of steroids.
Main outcome measures: Time to corneal reepithelialization, final best-corrected visual acuity, and time to visual recovery, length of hospital stay, and complications were analyzed.
Results: The standard protocol tended to delay corneal reepithelialization by one day (P: = not significant) in eyes with grade 1 burns (n = 76) and by 2 days (P: = 0.04) in grade 2 burns (n = 52), with no difference in final visual outcome. There were 37 eyes with grade 3 burns. Those treated with the standard protocol showed a trend toward more rapid corneal reepithelialization. Twenty-seven of 29 (93%) eyes with grade 3 injuries achieved a final best-corrected visual acuity of 20/40 or better compared with 3 of 6 (50%) eyes not treated according to the standard protocol (P: = 0.02). Eyes with grade 4 burns (n = 12), whether treated with the standard protocol or not, required 10 to 12 weeks for corneal reepithelialization. There was no statistically significant difference in final visual acuity.
Conclusions: On the basis of our findings, a number of recommendations can be made for the management of alkali injuries. Patients with a grade 1 or 2 injury do not require routine admission and do not benefit from the use of intensive treatment with ascorbate and citrate. A trend toward more rapid healing and a better final visual outcome were apparent in grade 3 burns, but our standard protocol made no difference in grade 4 burns.