Aim: The aim of this study was to assess the long-term results of autologous submandibular gland transfer for surgical correction of severe keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
Patients and methods: A survey was undertaken of 32 patients who had undergone submandibular gland transfer (42 glands) and by following up 11 patients (15 glands) for 5-10 years. Subjective benefit was evaluated as well as clinical findings at the ocular surface. The biochemical consistency of the secreted "saliva-tear" was analysed and compared with natural submandibular saliva of a matched control-group. The vitality and function of the transplants was tested by means of sialoscintigraphy. Immunohistochemical investigations were carried out in specimens of submandibular tissue, gained during reduction procedures of the transplants to correct secretory excess.
Results: Patient evaluation and clinical assessment revealed a long-lasting subjective benefit in 2/3 of the patients and a stabilisation at the ocular surface in all cases. The secretion remained as highly concentrated submandibular saliva. Glandular vitality and function was shown scintgraphically. Immunohistochemical investigations revealed no progressive atrophy after transplantation, the ability of cell division remained intact and there was still neuronal tissue in all transplants, even several years after transfer. As all transplants responded well to parasympathomimetic drugs, this might be an indication of re-innervation of the gland.