Ocular discomfort and conjunctival alterations in operating room workers. A single-institution pilot study

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2001 Mar;74(2):123-8. doi: 10.1007/s004200000203.


Objectives: The aim of this pilot study was to relate the eye symptoms complained of by subjects working in the operating rooms of a hospital in southern Italy, with the observations of alterations of the ocular surface.

Methods: An epidemiological study was carried out by a questionnaire aimed at investigating the prevalence of ocular discomfort symptoms among 213 subjects working in operating rooms and 40 subjects working in the wards. The investigated symptoms were the following: tiredness, heaviness, burning, redness, tearing, itching, blinking, foreign body sensation, and photophobia. A randomised comparative study of the ocular surface and conjunctival cytology was also carried out, comparing two groups of age- and gender-matched subjects. Group 1 included 24 subjects randomly chosen from the operating room workers with ocular discomfort symptoms; group 2 included ten subjects randomly enrolled from hospital personnel working in the wards. Ophthalmological examination of the ocular surface was performed on each subject in the following order: slit-lamp examination, break-up time (BUT) of the pre-corneal tear film, corneal fluorescein stain, lachrymal basal secretion test, conjunctival impression cytology.

Results: A high prevalence (72.3%) of ocular discomfort symptoms was reported by operating room workers, while in ward personnel the prevalence was 55% (P = 0.04). The ocular tests showed that the conjunctival features and BUT were statistically significantly altered in subjects in group 1. Also, the conjunctival impression cytology study showed statistically significant alterations of all the investigated parameters: specimen cellularity, cell-to-cell contacts, nucleus/cytoplasm ratio, chromatin pattern, goblet cell distribution, keratinisation and the total cytological score.

Conclusions: Our results show that self-reported eye complaints and ocular surface alterations have a high prevalence in subjects working in the operating rooms. This seems to indicate that the operating room environment could play a role in the onset of the eye disturbances.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Conjunctiva / pathology*
  • Conjunctival Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Conjunctival Diseases / pathology
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Eye Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Personnel, Hospital*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Statistics, Nonparametric