Patients with ocular complaints frequently present to emergency departments (EDs) for care. Emergency department practitioners are often the first to evaluate these patients and determine the next steps in their care, which can be a challenging task. The purpose of this study is to determine the frequency of anterior segment pathology in the setting of the ED in hopes that this information will be useful in creating more effective management algorithms.
A retrospective study based on electronic patient charts from the University of California Davis ED that included ophthalmology consults. We reviewed the charts for demographic data, as well as visual acuity (VA), intraocular pressure (IOP), and diagnosis as determined by ED and ophthalmology personnel, respectively.
The most common anterior segment diagnoses were uveitis, corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer, meibomian gland dysfunction/dry eyes/blepharitis/punctate epithelial erosions, and conjunctivitis/epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. Emergency Department personnel measured the VA and IOP in 40.8% and 16.7% of patients, respectively. The ophthalmologist measured the VA and IOP in 78.4% and 95.1% of patients, respectively. The percentage agreement in VA measurement between ophthalmology and ED was 11.8%. The percentage agreement in IOP measurement between ophthalmology and ED was 0.86%. The percentage agreement in diagnosis between ophthalmology and ED was 49.4%.
Most ocular conditions that present in the ED are nonurgent and can be treated in an outpatient setting. However, ED personnel are often unable to obtain the proper “ocular vital signs” (the VA and IOP) and diagnoses. Our findings suggest a need for clear interprofessional discussion in creating an algorithm for triage and the management of eye conditions in the ED to deliver effective care.