Purpose: To examine changing patterns of ophthalmic presentations to emergency departments (EDs) during the lockdowns associated with the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and the two months immediately following lockdown relaxation. Patients and Methods: This was a retrospective audit of triage coding and ICD-10-AM coding for all patient presentations to four Australian EDs from March 29 to May 31 in 2019 and 2020 (the COVID-19 lockdown period and the corresponding period in 2019), and from June 1 to July 31 in 2019 and 2020 (the post-lockdown period and the corresponding period in 2019). Number of ophthalmic presentations triaged per day and number of seven common and/or time-sensitive, vision threatening ophthalmic diagnoses were examined. Differences in mean daily presentation numbers were assessed with non-paired Student’s t-test with Bonferroni correction. Results: Total ophthalmic presentations per day during COVID-19 lockdowns fell by 16% compared to the corresponding period in 2019 (13.0 ± 4.0 in 2019 vs 10.8 ± 3.3 in 2020, mean ± standard deviation; p=0.01). There was also a significant decrease in presentations of atraumatic retinal detachment, conjunctivitis, and eye pain. In the two months following easing of lockdown restrictions, total ophthalmic presentations per day returned to the same level as that of the corresponding period in 2019 (12.2 ± 4.3 in 2019 vs 12.3 ± 4.1 in 2020, p=0.97). Conclusion: Total ophthalmic presentations and presentations of atraumatic retinal detachment, conjunctivitis and, eye pain to EDs fell during the lockdowns associated with the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia. These may represent delays in patients seeking appropriate medical attention and may have implications on patient morbidity long after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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- Emergency medicine
- Ophthalmic epidemiology
- Public health
- Retinal detachment