Corneal densitometry as an indicator of corneal health

Ophthalmology. 2012 Mar;119(3):501-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.08.024. Epub 2011 Nov 30.


Purpose: To establish prospectively the normal values of corneal density of healthy subjects using the Pentacam Scheimpflug system (Oculus, Inc., Wetzlar, Germany) and to investigate alteration in corneal density during active and healed stages of bacterial keratitis.

Design: Prospective, comparative case series.

Participants and controls: Sixty-four eyes of 40 healthy controls and 36 eyes of 35 patients with bacterial keratitis were studied.

Methods: This study was conducted at the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, United Kingdom. A Pentacam system was used to study corneal density. Corneal densitometry readings in subjects with bacterial keratitis were recorded during the active stage and 4 to 6 weeks after complete healing. Densitometry was recorded at the site of infection and at a point in clear cornea furthest away from the infectious infiltrate. Corneal thickness also was measured.

Main outcome measures: Densitometry values of normal cornea, at the site of corneal ulcer or abscess, and at a distant point of clear cornea during active and healed keratitis.

Results: The mean densitometry value of normal corneas was 12.3 ± 2.4. In infectious keratitis, the densitometry values were greatest at the site of the active infection and significantly more than in controls. The densitometry values at the points of clear cornea furthest away from the site of infection also were significantly higher than in controls during active disease, but failed to return to normal values, despite complete resolution of infection. The density of the infiltrates was much higher than that of residual scars after healing of ulcers. No correlation was found between the pachymetry and the densitometry values.

Conclusions: Densitometry of active infectious corneal infiltrates is more than that resulting from the corneal scarring after healing. Persistent increase in density of clear cornea furthest away from the focus of corneal infection suggests that the host response extends beyond the immediate area of infection and indeed may occur through the entire cornea. These changes persist beyond 4 weeks of healing, which was the duration of follow-up of this study. Densitometry can be used as an objective measure of the corneal response to infection and to monitor response to therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Count
  • Cornea / cytology
  • Cornea / pathology*
  • Corneal Ulcer / diagnosis*
  • Corneal Ulcer / microbiology
  • Densitometry
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Ophthalmological
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photography / instrumentation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Wound Healing
  • Young Adult