Mucous membrane grafting

Dev Ophthalmol. 2008:41:230-242. doi: 10.1159/000131092.


Introduction: We review the use of mucous membrane grafting in the clinical management of dry eye-associated ocular surface disease.

Material and methods: Literature review of the scientific evidence, presentation of guidelines and surgical details.

Results and conclusion: The reformation and maintenance of a conjunctival fornix requires the addition of epithelial tissue, or a basement membrane which can be populated by healthy host epithelial cells. A healthy conjunctival or tarsal autograft, when available, is the ideal material. Oral mucosa does not contain goblet cells and therefore does not supplement the tear film: a full-thickness oral mucous membrane graft is the simplest graft to use if conjunctiva or tarsus is not available. Split-thickness mucosal grafts contract more, but are less bulky and pink than full-thickness grafts, and therefore should be used on the globe. Hard palate grafts are the thickest oral mucosal grafts and contract the least. Nasal mucosal grafts contain goblet cells that may contribute mucous to the tear film. This is maximised in turbinate mucosal grafts, which can relieve discomfort in extreme dry eye situations. Nasal septal cartilage contains fewer goblet cells, but adds rigidity. Amniotic membrane is thin and translucent-like conjunctiva, and possesses antiangiogenic, antiscarring and anti-inflammatory properties. It may become re-epithelialised with normal a conjunctival cell population and prevent postoperative cicatrisation, but requires the presence of healthy conjunctival stem cells to repopulate the graft, adequate lacrimal function to keep the graft moist, and a host site that is free from inflammation, otherwise it rapidly contracts. It can be combined with limbal transplantation and with an adjunctive antimetabolite.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basement Membrane / physiology
  • Conjunctival Diseases / surgery*
  • Dry Eye Syndromes / surgery*
  • Epithelial Cells / transplantation
  • Humans
  • Mucous Membrane / transplantation*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting