Background: Our aims were to examine graft survival and visual outcome after full-thickness corneal transplantation.
Methods: Records of 18,686 penetrating corneal grafts, 14,622 with archival follow-up from 1 to 22 years, were examined within a national database. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis indicated variables of interest for Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. A model clustered by patient to control intereye or intergraft dependence was constructed to identify variables best predicting penetrating corneal graft failure. Visual acuity in the grafted eye was measured by Snellen acuity.
Results: Probability of corneal graft survival was 0.87, 0.73, 0.60, and 0.46 at 1, 5, 10, and 15 years, respectively. Reasons for graft failure included irreversible rejection (34%), corneal endothelial cell failure including cases of glaucoma (24%), and infection (14%). Variables predicting graft failure in multivariate analysis included transplant center, location and volume of surgeon's case-load, graft era, indication for graft, number of previous ipsilateral grafts, lens status, corneal neovascularization at transplantation, a history of ocular inflammation or raised intraocular pressure, graft diameter, and postoperative events including graft neovascularization and rejection. Best-corrected Snellen acuity of 6/12 or better was achieved by 45%, and of less than 6/60 by 26%, of grafted eyes at last follow-up.
Conclusions: The short-term survival of penetrating corneal transplants is excellent, but the eventual attrition rate appears inexorable and many factors that influence graft survival significantly are not amenable to change. Most penetrating grafts are performed for visual improvement, and excellent acuity will be achieved by approximately half of all grafts.