Motor Vehicle Crash-associated Eye Injuries Presenting to U.S. Emergency Departments

Grayson W. Armstrong, BA; Allison J. Chen, BA; James G. Linakis, MD, PhD; Michael J. Mello, MD, MPH; Paul B. Greenberg, MD


Western J Emerg Med. 2014;15(6):693-700. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are a leading cause of injury in the United States (U.S.). Detailed knowledge of MVC eye injuries presenting to U.S. emergency departments (ED) will aid clinicians in diagnosis and management. The objective of the study was to describe the incidence, risk factors, and characteristics of non-fatal motor vehicle crash-associated eye injuries presenting to U.S. EDs from 2001 to 2008.

Methods Retrospective cross-sectional study using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) from 2001 to 2008 to assess the risk of presenting to an ED with a MVC-associated eye injury in relation to specific occupant characteristics, including age, gender, race/ethnicity, disposition, and occupant (driver/passenger) status.

Results From 2001 to 2008, an estimated 75,028 MVC-associated eye injuries presented to U.S. EDs. The annual rate of ED-treated eye injuries resulting from MVCs declined during this study period. Males accounted for 59.6% of eye injuries (95% confidence interval [CI] 56.2%–63.0%). Rates of eye injury were highest among 15–19 year olds (5.8/10,000 people; CI 4.3–6.0/10,000) and among African Americans (4.5/10,000 people; CI 2.0–7.1/10,000). Drivers of motor vehicles accounted for 62.2% (CI 58.3%–66.1%) of ED-treated MVC eye injuries when occupant status was known. Contusion/Abrasion was the most common diagnosis (61.5%; CI 56.5%–66.4%). Among licensed U.S. drivers, 16–24 year olds had the highest risk (3.7/10,000 licensed drivers; CI 2.6–4.8/10,000).

Conclusion This study reports a decline in the annual incidence of ED-treated MVC-associated eye injuries. The risk of MVC eye injury is greatest among males, 15 to 19 year olds and African Americans.


Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are one of the leading causes of injuries in the United States (U.S.) and impose a large economic burden on the healthcare system.[1,2] MVCs present unique eye injury risk factors such as rapid changes in velocity, potential broken glass exposure, airbag deployment, lack of occupant restraint use, and other foreign body exposure.[3–8] However, recent epidemiological studies of MVCs have not examined ocular injuries presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in the U.S. ( Table 1 ). A better understanding of the risk factors for MVC-related ocular injuries would aid clinicians in the diagnosis and management of MVC eye injury victims. We describe herein the characteristics of MVC-associated eye injuries presenting to United States (U.S.) EDs.