Background: Ocular and ocular adnexal injuries, both combat-related and accidental, are common during wartime. In a combat setting, the eye is particularly vulnerable to serious injury from tiny flying particles that might minimally affect other parts of the body. The purpose of this study is to examine the incidence of serious ocular and ocular adnexal injuries that occurred during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Methods: The authors retrospectively reviewed serious ocular and ocular adnexal injuries treated by United States Army and Navy ophthalmologists that occurred during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Only those injuries that resulted in, or would have resulted in, hospital admission because of the ocular or ocular adnexal injury alone are presented.
Results: During Desert Shield, 20 patients (23 eyes) suffered serious ocular or ocular adnexal injuries compared with 160 patients (198 eyes) in Desert Storm. During Desert Storm, 78% of all serious injuries were caused by blast fragmentation from munitions. More than one third of the 98 globe lacerations reported in this article were 10 mm or less in size. Of 35 enucleations performed during Desert Storm, 94% were the result of munitions fragments.
Conclusions: During Operation Desert Storm, fragmentation wounds from munitions were the most common cause of ocular and ocular adnexal morbidity. The authors' findings indicate that polycarbonate ballistic protective eyewear could have prevented many of the ocular injuries that they report.