Emergency treatment of chemical and thermal eye burns

Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2002 Feb;80(1):4-10. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0420.2002.800102.x.


Chemical and thermal eye burns account for a small but significant fraction of ocular trauma. The speed at which initial irrigation of the eye begins, has the greatest influence on the prognosis and outcome of eye burns. Water is commonly recommended as an irrigation fluid. However, water is hypotonic to the corneal stroma. The osmolarity gradient causes an increased water influx into the cornea and the invasion of the corrosive substance into deeper corneal structures. We therefore recommend higher osmolarities for the initial rinsing to mobilize water and the dissolved corrosives out of the burnt tissue. Universal systems such as amphoteric solutions, which have an unspecific binding with bases and acids, provide a convenient solution for emergency neutralisation. Both conservative anti-inflammatory therapy and early surgical intervention are important to reduce the inflammatory response of the burnt tissue. In most severe eye burns, tenonplasty re-establishes the conjunctival surface and limbal vascularity and prevents anterior segment necrosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burns, Chemical / therapy*
  • Corneal Injuries
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Eye Burns / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods