Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Hospitalizations associated with eye trauma increased by nearly one-fifth over 13 years -- mainly from falls among elderly people -- according to a new study.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pittsburgh report there were 939,608 hospital inpatient admissions related to eye injuries from 2001 to 2014, with patients having a median age of 49 years, according to findings published Thursday in JAMA Ophthalmology.
An estimated 2.0 million to 2.4 million cases of eye trauma occur each year in the United States, and nearly 1 million individuals have permanent significant visual impairment because of injury, according to previous research. More than 75 percent of patients become monoculary blind, and no less than 27 percent lead to legal blindness of worse than 20/200.
"Consistently, trauma is considered a leading cause of visual impairment throughout the industrialized world," the researchers wrote in the new study. "However, there is no recent information regarding the incidence and characteristics of hospitalization for eye trauma on a national level, because previous studies on the topic were either performed more than a decade ago or focused on specific subpopulations."
For the study, data were collected as part of the National Inpatient Sample between 2001 and 2014, with researchers looking to determine incidence, characteristics and causes of primary and secondary inpatient eye trauma admissions.
A total of 82.9 percent had eye trauma as a secondary incidence, which rose 31 percent from 14.5 to 19.0 per 100,000 population. Primary eye trauma decreased from 3.9 to 3.0 per 100,000 population
The increase was largely attributed to an increasing number of falls in individuals older than 65 years.
Overall, the major causes of injury for eye trauma as a primary diagnosis were falls at 25.3 percent and assault at 24.7 percent. As a secondary diagnosis, falls were attributed to 35.2 percent of the hospitalizations and motor vehicle crashes were 26.6 percent.
The most frequent diagnosis was orbital fracture at 39.9 percent percent for primary trauma, and contusion of eye and adnexa at 37.8 percent for secondary trauma.
Primary trauma was more common in children and adolescents than adults. Also, it was more likely among African-American and Hispanic people than with whites.
"These findings suggest that the increasing number of falls in individuals older than 65 years and the high risk of primary eye trauma in populations such as children and adolescents warrant the development and implementation of effective preventive strategies," the authors wrote. "Many of these patients are seen in ophthalmology practices where proactive risk assessment and counseling can play a critical role."
Patients with a primary diagnosis were more likely to have a stay of less than three days.
"We are hopeful that these data will serve as a good foundation to develop guidelines and quality improvement projects that test the efficacy of various interventions to reduce the burden and improve the outcomes of eye trauma hospitalizations," the authors wrote.