Purpose: To report the 6- and 12-month results of the first United States clinical series of deep lamellar endothelial keratoplasty (DLEK) in the treatment of endothelial dysfunction.
Design: Prospective, noncomparative, interventional case series.
Participants: Eight eyes of eight patients with corneal edema from Fuchs' dystrophy and pseudophakia.
Methods: A 9.0-mm limbal, scleral, partial-depth incision provided access for a deep lamellar corneal pocket dissection. A 7.5- to 8.0-mm posterior lamellar disc of recipient tissue was then excised and replaced through the pocket with a same size donor disc containing healthy endothelium. A temporary air bubble in the anterior chamber was used for donor tissue adherence, and no surface corneal incisions or sutures were necessary.
Main outcome measures: Preoperative and postoperative best spectacle-corrected visual acuity (BSCVA), manifest refraction astigmatism, TMS-1 topography, ultrasonic pachymetry, Orbscan topography, and endothelial cell density were evaluated. Intraoperative and postoperative complications are reported.
Results: At 6 and 12 months after surgery, all eight corneas were clear and the grafts were healed in good position. At 6 months, the BSCVA varied between 20/30 and 20/70, the average change in astigmatism from before surgery was +1.13 diopters (D; +/-1.50 D), the average change in corneal power was -0.4 D (+/-1.7 D), the average pachymetry was 648 micro m (+/-134 micro m), and the average endothelial cell count was 2290 cells/mm(2) (+/-372 cells/mm(2)). At 12 months, three of the four eyes reaching this time gate were 20/40 or better, with a change in astigmatism from before surgery of only +0.81 D (+/- 0.55 D), a corneal power change of -1.3 D (+/- 0.4 D), and an endothelial density of 2409 cells/mm(2) (+/- 154 cells/mm(2)). One of the original nine eyes entered into this study required conversion to standard penetrating keratoplasty as a result of a microperforation during recipient pocket dissection and has experienced no ill effects.
Conclusions: The DLEK procedure, with its absence of corneal surface incisions and sutures, is a safe procedure that preserves the normal corneal topography, minimizes astigmatism and corneal power changes, and provides a healthy donor endothelial cell count and function. If interface optical clarity can be maintained, then this technique offers considerable advantages over penetrating keratoplasty in the treatment of endothelial dysfunction.