Objective: To determine if keratocyte populations are different in corneas with Fuchs dystrophy compared with control corneas.
Methods: Eleven corneas excised during penetrating keratoplasty for Fuchs dystrophy and 5 control corneas of eyes enucleated for choroidal melanoma were examined using light microscopy. Twenty control corneas age-matched to the corneas with Fuchs dystrophy were examined using confocal microscopy in vivo. The number of keratocytes in a full-thickness column of central stroma with frontal area of 1 mm(2), determined using histologic and confocal methods, was compared between corneas with Fuchs dystrophy and controls.
Results: By histology, the mean (SD) number of cells in a full-thickness column of stroma in Fuchs dystrophy (12 215  cells) was less than in control corneas (15 628  cells; P < .001). The mean (SD) number of keratocytes in the anterior 10% of the stroma of corneas with Fuchs dystrophy (682  cells) was less than in the control corneas measured using histology (1858  cells; P < .001) and confocal microscopy (1481  cells; P < .001).
Conclusions: Keratocytes are depleted by 54% to 63% in the anterior 10% of the stroma of corneas that require penetrating keratoplasty for Fuchs dystrophy. Keratocyte loss might contribute to anterior stromal changes that persist and degrade vision after endothelial keratoplasty.