Contact Lenses Cause More Child Injuries Than Any Other Medical Device

Contact lenses send more children to the emergency room than any other type of medical device, according to the findings of a new study by federal regulators, mainly due to problems with eye infections and abrasions. 

The study was conducted by the FDA and published in the online edition of the medical journal, Pediatrics, finding that nearly three times as many children visit the emergency room due to injuries from contact lenses than those that are injured by hypodermic needles, the second-most common childhood injury from a medical device.

More than 70,000 children are admitted to hospital emergency rooms each year around the country due to what are known as medical device adverse events (MDAEs), which occur when a device meant to improve your health actually causes damage instead. Accounting for about 23% of those visits, injuries from contact lenses were attributed mainly to children wearing them too long without cleaning them, researchers found.

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Hypodermic needles caused 8% of all MDAE emergency room visits for children, making it the second most common source of injury. The most serious injuries came from implanted tubes, such as brain shunts for children with hydrocephalus, chest catheters, insulin pumps and similar devices.

Researchers looked at medical reports from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program database from January 1, 2004 through December 21, 2005. Over that two year period, there were 144,799 MDAE emergency room visits by children, and nearly 34,000 of those were due to contact lenses. Most of the injuries involved contusions and abrasions, foreign-body intrusions, punctures, lacerations and infections. Children were most likely to injure their eyes, pubic regions, fingers, faces or ears with moderate-risk medical devices.

The researchers found that when under the age of 10, it was most likely boys would be injured. However, between the ages of 16 and 21, girls were more commonly involved in MDAEs, which could possibly be due to teen girls’ use of contraceptive devices and medical mistakes during gynecological exams.

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