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Optometry. 2005 Jul;76(7):382-6.

Automobile air bags: friend or foe? A case of air bag-associated ocular trauma and a related literature review.

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  • 1Associated Eye Surgeons, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.



Although air bags are placed in automobiles to act as safety devices, they have been shown to carry a risk of injury themselves. Ocular injury, in particular, can often be a direct consequence of air bag deployment. A case of ocular air bag injury is presented. A discussion and review of the current literature on this issue follows.


A 63-year-old man was transferred to our clinic after sustaining injuries related to a motor vehicle accident, during which the automobile's air bag was deployed. Initial examination revealed many signs of blunt ocular trauma of the O.D., including iridodialysis, dislocated lens with traumatic cataract, and traumatic/inflammatory glaucoma. Initial B-scan showed an attached retina O.D. One month later, the patient underwent an attempted pars plana vitrectomy with lensectomy, iris repair, and insertion of an anterior chamber intraocular lens. Complications arose during the procedure, and a total retinal detachment developed. Resultant acuity is no light perception O.D.


Although ocular morbidity can be a direct consequence of air bag deployment, most eye injuries are minimal, and seem to be outweighed by the benefits of air bags. Drivers, as well as passengers, can minimize associated injuries by adhering to specific safety guidelines. This, as well as continual modification and improvement in air bag design, will maximize the safety of air bags and decrease the incidence of vision-threatening ocular injury caused by air bag deployment.

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