Aims: To evaluate the success rates of conjunctival autografting for primary and recurrent pterygium performed in a tertiary ophthalmic centre.
Methods: The outcome of 139 cases with primary pterygia and 64 cases with recurrent pterygia who underwent excision with conjunctival autografting was retrospectively reviewed. Outcome was evaluated in terms of recurrence of pterygia onto the cornea. The recurrence rates were determined using Weibull survival functions, in a mixture model that included a component allowing for cure. The suitability of this model was verified using Turnbull's non-parametric method for interval censored data (1974). Estimated recurrence free probabilities were based on the fitted Weibull survival curves.
Results: Mean follow up was 8.4 months in the primary group, and 9.5 months for the recurrent group. 29 out of 139 cases of primary pterygia recurred (20.8%) while 20 out of 64 cases in the recurrent group (31.2%) recurred. Recurrence rates varied widely among surgeons, ranging from 5% to 82%. Recurrence rates were inversely related to previous experience in performing conjunctival grafting. The recurrence free probability was 84% at 3 months, 73% at 1 year for primary pterygia, and 80% at 3 months, 67% at 1 year for recurrent pterygia. There was no statistical difference in recurrence rates between primary and recurrent groups (p= 0.80).
Conclusion: The success of conjunctival autografting for pterygium in this series varies widely, and may be related to a significant learning curve or differing surgical techniques for this procedure. This may account for the wide variation in reported success of this procedure in the ophthalmic literature.