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Shedding Some Light on Laser Pointer Eye Injuries

Ajudua, Stephanie MD*; Mello, Michael J. MD, MPH*†

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31814b2dc4
Review Article

Objectives: Laser use has become common in the home and workplace. We present a review of laser eye injuries and guidance for the emergency medicine physician on evaluation of laser eye injury-related complaints.

Methods: A review of the literature on the potential for injury, concerning signs and symptoms, evaluation, and referral recommendations is discussed.

Results: The scientific literature finds that laser eye injuries are uncommon from use of nonindustrial lasers. Furthermore, an eye injury from a regulated Class 2 or Class 3A by a transient sweep across the line of vision does not result in injury, but injury can occur with a direct intentional prolonged exposure.

Conclusions: Patient's history of the length and type of laser exposure is important. A significant direct eye exposure to a laser, persistent after images, and decreased visual acuity should initiate urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for further ophthalmologic testing. Brief laser exposure or indirect exposures with complaints of headaches or blurry vision require other diagnostic explanations.

*Department of Community Health and †Department of Emergency Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Injury Prevention Center, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael J. Mello, MD, MPH, Injury Prevention Center, 592 Eddy St, Providence, RI 02903. E-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.