Purpose: To evaluate the clinical indications and results of reconstructive (tectonic) lamellar keratoplasty in corneal melting.
Methods: A nonrandomized, uncontrolled retrospective case series of 64 consecutive patients (80 eyes) who underwent lamellar keratoplasty for corneal melting at our institution over a 17-year period. We reviewed the (a) clinical indications, (b) visual acuities, (c) postoperative corneal clarity, and (d) post-operative complications. Comparisons in visual acuity were made between central and peripheral corneal melts. The statistical influence of patient age, diagnosis, and corneal graft size on pre- and postoperative visual acuity values also was studied.
Results: Although reconstructive lamellar keratoplasty for active corneal melting was effective in saving the integrity of the globes in all but four patients, the postoperative visual acuity remained poor in the majority of cases because of the often devastating nature of the underlying ocular diseases. Only 14 patients had best postoperative visual acuities of 20/100 or better. Repeated lamellar keratoplasties were necessitated by corneal opacification, infection, or progressive postoperative corneal dissolution in 14 cases. Subsequent vision-restoring surgeries, consisting of penetrating keratoplasties or cataract extractions, were done in 11 eyes with modest improvement of visual acuity. Postoperative visual acuity was significantly better in peripheral corneal melts than in central melts (p = 0.004).
Conclusion: Lamellar keratoplasty is an effective method of restoring the integrity of the eye ravaged by corneal melting. It is less invasive and consequently safer than penetrating keratoplasty in actively inflamed and unstable eyes. The primary purpose for this surgery is to salvage the integrity of the globe during the acute phase of disease and not so much to achieve visual improvement per se. It allows time for systemic immunosuppression to take effect and for the eye to quiet down before possible future vision-restoring surgery.