Ocular injuries in survivors of improvised explosive devices (IED) in commuter trains

BMC Emerg Med. 2007 Sep 27;7:16. doi: 10.1186/1471-227X-7-16.


Background: Ocular injuries are common in survivors of terror incidents that involve the use of explosive materials. These explosives are commonly of a High Explosive type (HE) and may be fashioned into improvised explosive devices (IED) that incorporate additional materials to maximise trauma and injuries. Serial IED explosions have occurred in commuter trains in several cities including London and Madrid but data on ocular injuries is limited. We report the ocular injuries of the survivors of a series of IED explosions in crowded commuter trains.

Methods: 28 patients (56 eyes, 28 male, ages ranging from 22 to 52 years (mean 35.27 years) were screened in the triage area or the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Testing included bedside visual acuity testing, torchlight examination of the anterior segment and dilated (or if necessary, undilated) fundus examination. Selected patients underwent B-scan examination, magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, orbits and the optic nerves or visual evoked potential assessment. The injuries, investigations and procedures were entered into the patient's case sheet as well as into a standardised format suggested by the Indian eye injury registry (IER).

Results: 16 of 28 patients (57.1%) had ocular injuries whereas 12 (42.8%) were found to be normal. Injuries were seen unilaterally in 10 patients and bilaterally in six yielding a total of 22 injured eyes. The common injuries were periorbital haemorrhages (09 eyes, 40%); first or second degree burns to the upper or lower lids (seen in 07 eyes, 31.8 %) and corneal injuries (seen in 08 eyes, 36.3%). Open globe injuries were seen in two eyes of two patients (09%). One patient (4.5%) had a traumatic optic neuropathy.

Conclusion: Ophthalmologists and traumatologists should be aware of these patterns of ocular injuries. Protocols need to include the screening of large numbers of patients in a short time, diagnostic tests (B scan, visual evoked potential (VEP) etc) and early surgery preferably at the initial triage itself as most of the serious injuries in our studies had been missed or not treated at an initial assessment.