Introduction: Some studies have suggested that ophthalmic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) decrease the pain associated with corneal abrasions without impairing healing. This evidence-based emergency medicine (EBEM) critical appraisal reviews the literature, including additional studies appearing since the publication of an earlier EBEM review in 1999.
Methods: The updated search for randomized controlled trials from 1999 to 2002 complemented the previous 1966 to 1999 search. The methodologic quality of the studies was assessed. Qualitative methods were used to summarize the study results.
Results: The search identified 3 studies not included in the previously published review of ophthalmic NSAIDs, yielding a total of 5 blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trials involving NSAIDs for corneal abrasions. The methodologic quality of the new studies was somewhat higher than that of the 2 original studies and was rated as "good" to "strong." The qualitative summary indicates that NSAIDs provide greater pain relief and improvement of other subjective symptoms when compared with placebo. However, whether the reduction of pain, as measured by visual analog pain scales, exceeds the minimal clinically significant difference is equivocal. The use of ophthalmic NSAIDs may decrease the need for sedating analgesics.
Conclusion: Ophthalmic NSAIDs appear to be useful for decreasing pain in patients with corneal abrasions who can afford the medication and who must return to work immediately, particularly where potential opioid-induced sedation is intolerable.