Retinal injury from handheld lasers: a review

Kavita V. Bhavsar, Zachary Michel, Miles Greenwald, Emmett T. Cunningham, K. Bailey Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Retinal photic injury induced by handheld lasers is a burgeoning public health concern due to the wider accessibility of high-powered devices. Retinal damage from thermal energy can cause potentially severe and permanent vision loss in children and young adults who are particularly vulnerable because of comorbid behavioral, learning, and psychiatric impairments. Understanding the spectrum of specific clinical and imaging features of such laser injuries aids in prompt and accurate diagnosis. Multimodal retinal imaging is important for the identification of the outer retinal abnormalities that characterize this condition. We reviewed 171 reported cases in the English and non-English language literature published from 1999, when handheld laser injury was first described, to December, 2018. Risk factors, demographic and clinical characteristics, as well as multimodal imaging findings, were collected and summarized. These findings both provide insights for public health awareness and guide areas of future investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-260
Number of pages30
JournalSurvey of Ophthalmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • handheld laser maculopathy
  • optical coherence tomography
  • retinal imaging
  • retinal laser injury
  • retinal phototoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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