Pointers and the Human Eye

A Clinicopathologic Study

Dennis M. Robertson, MD; Tock H. Lim, FRCS(Ed); Diva R. Salomao, MD; Thomas P. Link, CRA; Robin L. Rowe, COT; Jay W. McLaren, PhD

We report the absence of photic retinal injury after exposing the retina to light from class 3A laser pointers for durations of up to 15 minutes. Three patients with uveal melanomas were scheduled to have an enucleation. Each agreed to have his or her retina exposed to laser light from a class 3A laser pointer prior to enucleation. Continuous exposure was directed to the fovea for 1 minute, to the retina 5 below fixation for 5 minutes, and to the retina 5 above fixation for 15 minutes. Ophthalmoscopic evaluation of the cornea, lens, and retina and fluorescein angiographic studies of the retina were conducted before, 24 hours after, and 11 days after laser exposure in the first case; before and 86 hours after exposure in the second case; and before, 96 hours after, and 15 days after exposure in the third case. Other than transient afterimages that lasted only a few minutes, we were unable to document any functional, ophthalmoscopic, fluorescein angiographic, or histologic evidence of damage to any structures of the eyes. Transmission electron microscopic studies of retinal sites targeted by the laser pointers in the second and third cases revealed ultrastructural abnormalities in the outer retina and the pigment epithelium that were similar to abnormalities seen in the retina approximately 8 mm away from the targeted sites. The risk to the human eye from transient exposure to light from commercially available class 3A laser pointers having powers of 1, 2, and 5 mW seems negligible.