CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Journal of Academic Ophthalmology 2022; 14(02): e141-e146
DOI: 10.1055/s-0042-1750020
Research Article

Prevention of Exposure Keratopathy in the Intensive Care Unit: Evaluation of an EMR-Based Lubrication Order Protocol for Ventilated Patients

1   Department of Ophthalmology, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
K.S Hu
1   Department of Ophthalmology, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
A Simpson
1   Department of Ophthalmology, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
E Burton
2   Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
B.J Brintz
3   Division of Epidemiology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
A Lin
1   Department of Ophthalmology, John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
› Author Affiliations
Funding Supported in part by an Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY, to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Utah, and the Utah chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, Salt Lake City, UT.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the University Study Design and Biostatistics Center with funding in part from the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1TR002538.


Purpose In this pilot study, we aimed to investigate the efficacy of an electronic medical record (EMR) order set for lubricating ointment (four times daily) in the prevention of exposure keratopathy in ventilated patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the University of Utah. We attempted to capture the magnitude of morbidity, cost, and care burden in ventilated patients, as well as the utility of a systematic EMR-based preventative lubrication protocol in the ICU setting.

Methods After implementation of the order set, a retrospective chart review was performed to capture all ventilated ICU patients pre- and postintervention. Three separate study periods were used: (1) Six months prior to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and prior to the ocular lubrication intervention; (2) the subsequent 6-month period including COVID-19 patients but prior to any intervention; and (3) the subsequent 6-month period postintervention, including COVID-19 patients. The primary endpoint of ointment use per day was analyzed with a Poisson regression model. Secondary endpoints including rates of ophthalmologic consultation and exposure keratopathy were compared with Fisher's exact test. A poststudy survey of ICU nurses was included.

Results A total of 974 ventilated patients were included in the analysis. Ointment use per day increased by 155% (95% confidence interval [CI] 132–183%, p < 0.001) following the intervention. Rates also increased 80% (95% CI 63–99%, p < 0.001) during the COVID-19 study period but prior to intervention. The percentage of ventilated patients requiring a dilated eye exam for any indication was 3.2, 4, and 3.7% in each of the study periods, respectively. There was an overall down trend in the rate of exposure keratopathy which was diagnosed in 33.3, 20, and 8.3% of those receiving ophthalmologic consultation, though these rates were not statistically significant.

Conclusion These preliminary data show a statistically significant increase in the rates of lubrication in mechanically ventilated patients using an EMR-based order set in the ICU setting. There was no statistically significant decrease in the rates of exposure keratopathy. Our preventative protocol with lubrication ointment was of minimal cost burden to the ICU. Further longitudinal and multicenter studies are needed to better assess the efficacy of such a protocol.

Publication History

Received: 16 November 2021

Accepted: 16 March 2022

Article published online:
27 July 2022

© 2022. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (

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