Background and objectives: The effectiveness of air bags as a safety device in decreasing fatalities and reducing morbidity in frontal impact motor vehicle accidents has been well established. However, case reports have surfaced documenting ocular injuries related to air bag inflation. The purpose of this study was to identify and analyze ocular injuries sustained during air bag inflation.
Patients and methods: Hospital emergency room records were reviewed retrospectively for a period of 4 years for patients who had sustained ocular injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Those injuries associated with air bag inflation were analyzed as to the nature of the injury, type of vehicle, speed, and visual morbidity.
Results: Fourteen cases of ocular injury related to air bag inflation were identified. Hyphema (nine cases) and cornea abrasion (eight cases) were the most common. Three cases, all patients who had been wearing glasses, sustained serious and permanent ocular damage.
Conclusion: While air bags are an unequivocal safety feature, ocular injuries do occur that are related to air bag inflation. Eyeglass wear may present an additional risk factor.