Ophthalmology emergency room admission after Hurricane Harvey





ocular trauma, ophthalmic emergency, emergency room admission, Hurricane Harvey, tropical storm health impact


Objective: To study the pattern of ophthalmic emergencies after Hurricane Harvey (HH).

Design: A retrospective chart review.

Setting: University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas.

Participants: Patients who presented to UTMB emergency room (ER) during the month before (47 patients) and the month after (39 patients) HH landfall and were seen by the ophthalmology service.

Main outcome measures: Ocular injuries before and after hurricane landfall were classified by duration of symptoms (acute, subacute, and chronic), type of injury (hurricane related, traumatic, and infectious), region of injury (corneal/anterior segment, glaucoma, vitreoretinal, orbital-oculoplastic, and neuro-ophthalmologic), and level of involvement of injury (limited to eye, a manifestation of systemic disease, and associated with other bodily injuries).

Results: Patient demographics were similar before and after the storm. Three direct hurricane-related injuries from rescue and cleanup activities were identified. Only patients with acute/subacute ophthalmic injuries presented after HH. A trend for more traumatic injuries (from 28 to 41 percent of patients), corneal/anterior segment injuries (from 38 to 46 percent of patients), and vitreoretinal injuries (from 17 to 23 percent of patients) was observed after HH. A greater proportion of patients presented with localized injuries limited to the eye (from 49 to 56 percent of patients). Fewer patients had ocular manifestations of systemic disease (from 38 to 31 percent of patients) after HH. None of the changing trends reached statistical significance.

Conclusions: The low incidence of hurricane-related injuries was likely due to victims’ evacuation to surrounding nonimpacted areas and limited access to ER facilities within the affected area. ERs and eye care professionals should be prepared for future environmental disasters.

Author Biographies

Cina Karimaghaei

Medical Student, School of Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Kevin Merkley, MD

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Hossein Nazari, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota


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How to Cite

Karimaghaei, C., K. Merkley, MD, and H. Nazari, MD, PhD. “Ophthalmology Emergency Room Admission After Hurricane Harvey”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 16, no. 4, Dec. 2021, pp. 255-61, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2021.0409.