Long-term changes in corneal endothelium after keratoplasty. A follow-up study

Cornea. 1990 Apr;9(2):92-7.


In 1983, Abbott et al. assessed endothelial cell population and function in 100 clear corneal grafts (72 patients) that were an average of 17.4 years postkeratoplasty. The present study reports on 61 of these grafts (42 patients) followed for an additional 4-6 years. Forty-nine grafts without intercurrent complications or surgery were reexamined by specular microscopy to determine the change in endothelial population in each graft. In 10 others, the reasons for regrafting were recorded. In two cases of hereditary stromal dystrophy, stromal opacity precluded a cell count. Of the grafts studied, 49 (80%) remained clear despite a depleted and slowly decreasing endothelial population. The rate of change was independent of donor age, preoperative diagnosis, or graft longevity. Two grafts failed spontaneously, and all three grafts that had cataract surgery failed in the early postoperative period. The remaining five were regrafted to correct high astigmatism or other complications. We conclude that despite a small degree of continuous cell loss, corneal grafts have a favorable prognosis for long-term clinical stability. The remaining endothelium has a minimal functional reserve, however, resulting in a high risk of graft decompensation after additional endothelial trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Count
  • Endothelium, Corneal / cytology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Keratoplasty, Penetrating*
  • Prognosis
  • Reoperation