University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Ocular Emergencies During the Coronavirus Disease ‘Safer at Home Order’ in Wisconsin

Nenita Maganti, MD; Leslie Huang, MS; Mark Banghart; Roomasa Channa, MD; Jonathan S. Chang, MD; Suzanne W. van Landingham, MD

WMJ. 2023;122(5):331-336

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Introduction: The coronavirus pandemic created large shifts in utilization of hospital resources, patient presentations, and delivery of medical care.

Objectives: This retrospective study evaluated the ocular emergencies at a tertiary-care academic hospital in Wisconsin during the COVID-19-related “Safer at Home” order.

Methods: Ophthalmology consultations performed March 23 through May 26, 2020, were compared to the same time period in the 4 preceding years and the subsequent year. Billing codes were obtained to evaluate the diagnoses and procedures performed during this time frame.

Results: In 2020, 155 consultations were performed (42 emergency department, 113 inpatient), compared to a mean of 214 over the 5 other study years. The incidence rate ratio (IRR) of total consultations in 2020 was 0.72 (P ≤ 0.001) compared to previous years. Significantly fewer emergency department consultations were performed (IRR 0.62, P ≤ 0.001), while inpatient consultations were similar (IRR 0.88, P = 0.119). The most common diagnosis across all study years was fracture of the skull/orbit with injury to the eye/orbit. In 2020, 13% of consultations led to a procedure, compared to a total of 16% in the other years (IRR 0.59, P = 0.018).

Conclusions: This study demonstrated a 28% reduction in ophthalmology consultations at a major university hospital in Wisconsin during the COVID-19-related “Safer at Home” order, though the number of consultations leading to surgery were stable. This suggests that while patients with less acute needs may have deferred care, those requiring urgent surgery still presented to the emergency department. These data may help hospitals appropriately allocate eye care resources during future public health emergencies.

Author Affiliations: Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin (Maganti, Banghart, Channa, Chang, van Landingham); University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis (Huang).
Corresponding Author: Suzanne W. van Landingham, MD, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin, 2870 University Ave, Suite 108, Madison, WI 53705; phone 608.263.4823; email; ORCID ID 0000-0001-8347-6466
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge Oliver Eng, data query analyst, at the Clinical Research Data Service (CRDS) team at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH), who assisted with data extraction and creation of REDCap database.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Funding/Support: This work was supported in part by an Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc. to the UWSMPH Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. This work was also supported in part by the Core Grant for Vision Research from the National Institutes of Health to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P30 EY016665). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
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