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Blue Laser Induced Retinal Injury in a Commercial Pilot at 1300 ft

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BACKGROUND: We report what may be the first evidence-based report of a retinal laser injury to a pilot during commercial flight from a laser device on the ground. Given the significant subjective (blind spot) and objective evidence of focal retinal damage, coupled with the distance involved, we suspect the laser had a radiant power of several watts, known to be injurious to the human retina.

CASE REPORT: An airline pilot presented to our department complaining of a blind spot in the upper left area of his visual field in the right eye (right supero-nasal scotoma) following exposure to a laser beam while performing a landing maneuver of a commercial aircraft. At around 1300 ft (396 m), a blue laser beam from the ground directly entered his right eye, with immediate flash blindness and pain. Spectral domain ocular coherence tomography highlighted a localized area of photoreceptor disruption corresponding to a well demarcated area of hypofluorescence on fundus autofluorescence, representing a focal outer retinal laser injury. Fundus examination a fortnight later revealed a clinically identifiable lesion in the pilot’s right eye commensurate with a retinal-laser burn.

DISCUSSION: The case reports highlights the growing threat to the ocular health of airline crew and, potentially, passenger safety due to the lack of regulatory oversight of high powered laser devices obtained from the internet. We strongly believe high powered handheld laser devices should not be in the possession of the general public.

Gosling DB, O’Hagan JB, Quhill FM. Blue laser induced retinal injury in a commercial pilot at 1300 ft. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(1):69–70.
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Keywords: handheld; injury; laser; pilot

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Ophthalmology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffi eld, UK

Publication date: 2016-01-01

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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