Morphology and barrier function of the corneal epithelium after penetrating keratoplasty: association with original diseases, tear function, and suture removal

Cornea. 1999 Sep;18(5):559-64.


Purpose: To study changes in structure and barrier function of the corneal epithelium after penetrating keratoplasty.

Methods: Sixty-nine eyes of 56 patients undergoing penetrating keratoplasty were studied. Fifty-six age-matched normal eyes served as controls. Corneal epithelial structure was studied by using specular microscopy. Barrier function of the corneal epithelium was examined by slit-lamp fluorophotometry. Vital staining, tear function, and corneal sensitivity also were examined.

Results: Fluorescein and rose bengal staining scores, incidence of elongated cells, the mean epithelial area, and mean fluorescein uptake were significantly increased in postkeratoplasty eyes compared with controls. Original disease influenced the results of barrier function, where keratoconus revealed better function than bullous keratopathy or corneal scar. However, no such differences were noted in epithelial structure. Six eyes with absence of palisades of Vogt had revealed significantly increased epithelial area and fluorescein uptake. Removal of the running suture caused a decrease in elongated cells and epithelial cell area without significant changes in barrier function.

Conclusion: Corneal epithelial structure was significantly impaired in postkeratoplasty eyes. Epithelial barrier function of postkeratoplasty eyes was influenced by original diseases. Removal of sutures improves epithelial structure but not barrier function.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biological Transport
  • Corneal Diseases / pathology
  • Corneal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Epithelium, Corneal / pathology*
  • Epithelium, Corneal / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescein / metabolism
  • Fluorophotometry
  • Humans
  • Keratoplasty, Penetrating*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rose Bengal / metabolism
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Suture Techniques*
  • Tears / physiology*


  • Rose Bengal
  • Fluorescein