Purpose: Clinical assessment of outcome of corneal replacement with a synthetic cornea, AlphaCor, in patients considered at too high risk for conventional penetrating keratoplasty with donor tissue to be successful, but excluding indications such as end-stage dry eye that might be suited to traditional prosthokeratoplasty.
Methods: All patients in the multicentre clinical trial were managed according to an approved protocol, with Ethics Committee approval in each centre. Preoperative visual acuity ranged from perception of light (PL) to 6/60 (20/200). Implantation was by means of an intralamellar technique, with a conjunctival flap in most cases. Tissues anterior to the optic were removed as a secondary procedure.
Results: Up to 30 November 2001, 40 AlphaCor devices had been implanted in 38 patients, of mean age 60 years. Follow-up ranged from 0.5 months to 3 years. There had been one extrusion (2.5%) and four cases (10%) where a device had been removed due to melt-related complications. All five of these cases received a donor corneal graft after the device was removed, with these grafts remaining anatomically satisfactory and epithelialised to date. Corneal melts in AlphaCor recipients were found to be strongly associated with a history of ocular herpes simplex infection. Two further devices (5%) were removed owing to reduced optic clarity after presumed drug-related deposition, and have been successfully replaced with second devices. Mean preoperative best-corrected visual acuity was hand movements. Visual acuities after surgery ranged from PL to 6/6(-2) (20/20(-2)).
Conclusions: Early results suggest that the AlphaCor, previously known as the Chirila keratoprosthesis (Chirila KPro), has a low incidence of the complications traditionally associated with keratoprostheses and can be effective in restoring vision in patients considered untreatable by conventional corneal transplantation. Importantly, the device can be replaced with a donor graft in the event of development of a significant complication. A history of ocular herpes simplex is a contraindication to AlphaCor implantation. Ongoing monitoring of clinical outcomes in all patients will allow the indications for AlphaCor, as opposed to donor grafts, to be determined.