Eye burns are common and constitute an emergency. Burns can be chemical, from acid or alkaline substances, or from heat. Many chemical burns stem from industrial accidents while others occur in the home. Increasingly, doctors are turning to amniotic membrane to quickly treat these injuries. The degree to which amniotic membrane will heal eye burns depends on the extent of the injury.
What does amniotic membrane do to treat eye burns?
Amniotic membrane has many characteristics that can encourage healing, which is why they have been used as an adjunct to glaucoma surgery and where there have been complications from cataract surgery. First, they are anti-inflammatory, and reducing inflammation is essential in healing eye burns, because while initially part of the healing process, inflammation can lead to scarring and fibrosis.
Reducing inflammation encourages re-epithelialization or the growth of healthy cells. The amniotic membrane can serve as a substrate for growth of cells for reconstruction. Furthermore, serious side effects can be prevented. Eye pain from burns can be reduced, healing accelerated, scarring reduced, and blood vessel formation encouraged.
There are two main measures of the effectiveness of amniotic membrane for chemical eye burns. First, the integrity of ocular surface epithelium, and second, visual acuity after healing. These points are connected. Reducing scarring means saving more vision.
Treatment is most effective when it is within two weeks of the injury. The membrane is placed between the two lids to cover the entire eye surface and sutured in place. The procedure takes 15-20 minutes. The time it takes for membrane to dissolve depends on healing, usually from 1-3 weeks.
The way amniotic membrane can be an adjunct to other treatments for eye burns has been well-documented over the years. A retrospective analysis performed by Westekemper et al. examined the structure and functional outcomes of patients who received amniotic membrane transplant at two centers between 1998 and 2008. The study encompassed 72 eyes, with 7 acid burns, 61 alkaline burns, and 4 burns of unknown origin. The researches found that amniotic membrane transplant is an effective adjunctive treatment.
Arora, Mehta, and Jain looked at 15 eyes, 10 with lime burns and 5 with acid burns, where amniotic membrane transplant occurred within three weeks of the injury. Overall, the researchers found that in milder burns, even with amniotic membrane treatment alone, corneal and conjunctival surfaces were restored. Even with more severe burns, there was at least some improvement. Some complications could not be helped; for example, severe limbal stem cell deficiency, without additional treatment. The authors concluded amniotic membrane transplantation has a protective role against progressive melting and perforation.
Eye burns are serious and endanger your vision, but they can be treated. Contact our doctors using the form provided to find out more about amniotic membrane for eye conditions.