Purpose: To evaluate the visual, topographic, and endothelial survival results in 25 consecutive patients who have received small-incision deep lamellar endothelial keratoplasty (DLEK) transplant surgery.
Methods: DLEK surgery was performed in 25 patients with Fuchs endothelial dystrophy or pseudophakic bullous keratopathy utilizing a 5-mm scleral access incision. Snellen visual acuities, refractive astigmatism, endothelial cell counts, and corneal topography were prospectively measured at preop and at 6 months after small-incision DLEK endothelial replacement surgery.
Results: Best spectacle-corrected visual acuity improved from an average of 20/90 (range 20/25 to 2'/200) before surgery to an average of 20/44 (range 20/25 to 20/200, P < 0.001) 6 months after surgery, with 56% of patients 20/40 or better at 6 months. Average refractive astigmatism at 6 months was 1.31 +/- 0.59 diopters (range 0.25 to 2.50 diopters), representing an average increase in astigmatism of 0.45 diopters from preop. Despite folding of the donor graft for placement into the recipient posterior lamellar bed, the average postoperative endothelial cell count at 6 months was 2122 +/- 510 cells/mm2 (range 1097 to 3202 cells/mm2) or an average 24% cell loss from donor eye preop measurements, a level of cell loss comparable to that reported after PK or after large-incision DLEK surgery.
Conclusion: Small-incision DLEK surgery preserves the recipient corneal topography, resulting in very little change in astigmatism from preop. The excellent postoperative donor endothelial cell counts attest to the survival of donor endothelium despite folding of the graft for insertion. The small-incision DLEK technique may become the standard for endothelial replacement surgery in the future.