STUDY OBJECTIVE--To investigate the numbers and characteristics of patients with ophthalmological accidents and emergencies presenting to hospitals. DESIGN--Prospective survey over eight weeks. SETTING--Two general and one ophthalmic accident and emergency departments, two general outpatient departments, and an eye hospital ward consulting room (all in two teaching hospitals) in Newcastle upon Tyne. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Consultation numbers by age, sex, health district of residence, source of referral, diagnosis, and disposal were determined. An average of 37 ophthalmological emergency patients were seen daily. The all cause consultation rate per 1000 population for Newcastle residents was 2.64 (17.2 per year); for injuries it was 1.10 (7.2 per year) and for inflammations the rate was 0.91 (5.9 per year). Consultation rates per 1000 were 3.5 for males and 1.8 for females, the excess being explained by the higher risk of injury to men. Most patients were self-referred (58%), consulted during office hours (79.6%), were attended by senior house officers working alone (83.9%), and were asked to return for follow up (66.1%). Patients in an accident and emergency department seldom saw a consultant in their initial management. The diagnoses of patients from outside Newcastle were little different from those who lived within the city. The 10 commonest problems accounted for 68% of all cases. Injuries were the commonest problem (40.9% of all diagnoses). CONCLUSION--Ophthalmological accident and emergencies are an important component of an accident and emergency department workload. These patients are usually seen by junior doctors, some untrained in ophthalmology. The wide range of presenting problems poses a challenge for training and the organisation of effective referral chains, while the gender difference in injury rates points to the potential for prevention.
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