Airbag-induced eye injuries: a report of 25 cases

J Trauma. 1996 Jul;41(1):114-9. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199607000-00018.


Objective: To acquire a better understanding of airbag-induced eye injuries, 25 cases are reviewed and an attempt is made to identify the causal mechanisms associated with each injury.

Design and methods: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Accident Sampling System for the years 1984-1994 was accessed to identify automobile accidents that included airbag deployment and injury to the ocular region. The search provided 25 such cases with detailed studies of the accident scene and medical records of the injuries. The cases were comprehensively reviewed to determine the casual mechanisms associated with each group of injuries.

Results: The study determined that the injuries range from mild corneal abrasions to retinal detachment. Causation for each injury was determined and is detailed. The injuries were grouped according to location within the ocular region, and the distribution is shown.

Conclusions: Most of the injuries were induced by impact with the fully deployed airbag, but the more severe ocular trauma resulted from the actively deploying airbag striking the occupant. Thus, ocular trauma from airbags can occur in very minor impacts. Additionally, the left eye seemed more vulnerable to injury than the right. Nontethered airbags have greater inflation distances that tend to increase the probability of injury. External parameters that may also increase the severity of eye injury include an unfastened seat belt, sitting too close to the steering wheel, or wearing glasses.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Bags / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Corneal Injuries
  • Eye Injuries / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinal Detachment / etiology
  • Retinal Perforations / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies