Risk factors in microbial keratitis leading to penetrating keratoplasty

Ophthalmology. 1999 Jun;106(6):1166-70; discussion 1171. doi: 10.1016/S0161-6420(99)90250-6.


Objective: To determine the characteristics of infectious corneal ulcers at the time of presentation to the cornea specialist associated with a favorable response to medical therapy versus a poor outcome manifested by the need for penetrating keratoplasty for therapy or visual rehabilitation.

Design: Retrospective, case-control study.

Participants: A total of 162 patient records were reviewed, including the study group of 30 patients and the control group of 132 patients.

Intervention: A retrospective review of all cases of microbial keratitis presenting to the Cornea Service between January 1, 1989 and December 31, 1995 was conducted. The cases were divided into two groups. The study group consisted of patients with microbial keratitis who failed medical therapy and required penetrating keratoplasty. The control group included patients with infectious ulcers who responded to medical therapy alone.

Main outcome measures: The influence of demographics, medical and ocular history, delay in presentation to the primary ophthalmologist or the corneal specialist, topical medications, and contact lens usage were compared. Visual acuity and ulcer characteristics were recorded. The statistical significance was evaluated by the chi-square test for independence and multiple logistic regression.

Results: Older age (P=0.001), delay in referral to the corneal specialist (P<0.03), and treatment with topical steroids prior to presentation (P<0.0001) were statistically significant factors associated with the need for penetrating keratoplasty. Steroid use and the delay in referral were correlated. A past history of ocular surgery (P=0.01), poor visual acuity at presentation (P<0.001), and ulcer characteristics, including central location (P<0.0001), large size (P<0.0001), presence of perforation or descemetocele (P<0.0001), limbal involvement (P<0.0001), and hypopyon (P=0.05), were all associated with the need for penetrating keratoplasty.

Conclusions: Older age, delay in referral to the corneal specialist, topical steroid treatment, past ocular surgery, poor vision at presentation, large size, and central location of the ulcer are risk factors for poor outcome of microbial keratitis, as indicated by the need for penetrating keratoplasty.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cornea / microbiology
  • Cornea / surgery*
  • Corneal Ulcer / drug therapy
  • Corneal Ulcer / microbiology
  • Corneal Ulcer / surgery*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / surgery*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Keratoplasty, Penetrating*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Visual Acuity


  • Glucocorticoids