Doctor warns about the dangers of flying corks this christmas

A consultant eye surgeon at the Western Eye Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, is warning party goers this Christmas and New Year to be careful of flying corks from sparkling drinks bottles after a patient needed emergency eye surgery.

Mr Fabio Bassi was at home opening a bottle of Champagne when the cork flew out, broke the glass in his spectacles and went into his eye. Mr Bassi needed an emergency operation at the Western Eye Hospital to repair several severe lacerations to his cornea and then further surgery a few days later to remove a damaged lens from within the eye. Mr Bassi is now recovering well but will require further reconstructive surgery to improve his vision.

Mr Ali Mearza, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, said:

“A cork can travel at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour as it leaves the bottle which is enough to shatter glass, so a badly popped cork can easily cause serious eye injuries. Even being hit by a blunt cork in the eye can cause haemorrhage within the eye, retinal detachment, lens dislocation and rupture of the delicate eye wall.”

Mr Bassi said:

“It is incredible how quickly a moment of carelessness can turn a pleasant evening into a dramatic accident. Be extremely careful when opening a bottle of Champagne! I would be delighted if my accident could prevent other people from going through this predicament.”

Anyone who is hit by a cork in the eye should seek immediate treatment from an ophthalmologist.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has simple tips on how to safely open sparkling drinks bottles:

• Chill sparkling wine and Champagne to 45 degrees Fahrenheit / 7 degree Celsius or colder before opening. The cork of a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.
• Don't shake the bottle. Shaking increases the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle thereby increasing your chances of severe eye injury.
• Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and any bystanders and hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood on the bottle.
• Place a towel over the entire top of the bottle and grasp the cork.
• Twist the bottle while holding the cork at a 45 degree angle to break the seal. Counter the force of the cork using downward pressure as the cork breaks free from the bottle.


Notes to editors

1. The Western Eye Hospital is a specialist eye hospital within Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Services include a 24/7 A&E department.