Corneal biopsy in keratitis performed with the microtrephine

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1999 Nov;237(11):915-9. doi: 10.1007/s004170050386.


Background: The aetiology of most cases of keratitis remains unclear because the causative agents respond to broad-spectrum antibiotics. Problems occur when they become resistant to local therapies. Further diagnostic measures such as corneal scrapings or biopsies are then necessary. In order to ensure early and gentle biopsy followed by effective diagnosis within 24 h, corneal biopsy specimens were obtained with a microtrephine.

Patients and methods: Microbiopsies were obtained from 28 patients suffering from corneal infiltrates or ulcerative keratitis. Different stainings were used to identify the pathogens. Photographs of the clinical healing process were taken immediately after biopsy and during the follow-up.

Results: One hundred and ten microbiopsies were performed. One hundred and eighteen specimens could be obtained. No perforation occurred. In 5 of 10 cases in which herpetic keratitis was predicted, herpes DNA could be confirmed. The other five cases were found to be caused by other microbes. In 15 of 18 cases, the bacterial pathogen could be confirmed by Gram's stain diagnosis after microtrephination. Corneal smear was positive in only 7 of these cases. In 2 of 6 cases, predicted to be caused by fungi, lactophenol-blue staining of the microbiopsies showed positive results. Corneal smear was positive in only 1 of these 2 fungal cases. No intraoperative or postoperative complications occurred. No worsening of the disease as a result of treatment could be observed.

Conclusions: The confirmation of microbial cause of keratitis is more effective using microbiopsy than with corneal smears. As a result of the effective treatment after biopsy diagnosis, the majority of cases of keratitis healed. Local therapy seems to have been optimised due to the unroofing of infection during biopsy as well. Therefore microbiopsy in combination with laboratory diagnosis may prove to be a very useful diagnostic and possibly therapeutic method in the clinical routine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Cornea / microbiology
  • Cornea / pathology*
  • Corneal Ulcer / microbiology
  • Corneal Ulcer / pathology*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / pathology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Keratitis, Herpetic / pathology*
  • Keratitis, Herpetic / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rabbits
  • Simplexvirus / genetics
  • Simplexvirus / isolation & purification
  • Wound Healing


  • DNA, Viral