Mechanism and Emergency Management of Blast Eye/Orbital Injuries

Sabri T Shuker


Expert Rev Ophthalmol. 2008;3(2):229-246. 

In This Article

Rocket-propelled Grenade (RPG-7 & -29) Blast Injuries

Shuker (2006) described the pathophysiological effect of the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG-7) and its blast maxillofacial injuries management.[30] This weapon was widely and effectively used by the Iranian troops and their militia during the Iraq–Iran War of 1980–1988. Worldwide, it is available and cheap. In the recent Iraqi and Afghanistanian conflicts, a third of the US casualties were due to RPG-7 and other versions of the RPG family. Since we know that at least 22,834 USA troops have been wounded in action,[109] one can easily estimate how many soldiers having lost their vision from this weapons explosion which is due to;

  • The jet of the fragments of the shaped charge itself is less in types used as anti-tank weapons than antipersonnel ones. This is because antitank weapons contain more explosive material and provide a greater primary blast effect. This may cause catastrophic wounds to soldiers who are hit: especially eyes injuries because of the effect of enormous secondary fragments and the primary blast wave;

  • Metal spall are small fragments from the melted metal from external armor plate. This will lead to a shower spray of small, irregularly shaped, very hot, metallic fragments at metal melting point inside and out of the compartment. This is a main causative factor of eye injury;

  • The victims are usually close to the explosive and are therefore exposed to high thermal burns, primary blast front wave and small metallic spalling projectiles 2–3 mm in size that penetrate or rupture the eyeball and, when in concert with blast overpressure, shower the exposed face. Added to this is the fact that the eyes may be open, as the blink reflex is too slow compared with the velocity of fragment or blast wave to protect the eye;

  • Recently, RPG-29 has been used, which is the most advanced model and uses a tandem-charge heat warhead to penetrate armor and is apparently capable of destroying even a modern tank.[110,111] The blast wave is followed by the second explosion blast peppered melt spall metal of the armor wall, which is the main cause of eye penetrating injury by small metal fragments, blast wave and thermal effects. Blast injuries to the face have the potential to cause permanent eye damage Figure 10.

Rocket-propelled grenade-7 and -29 mechanism.


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