Microwave treatment of the cornea leads to localised disruption of the extracellular matrix

Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 13;8(1):13742. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32110-0.


Microwave keratoplasty is a thermo-refractive surgical procedure that can correct myopia (short-sightedness) and pathologic corneal steepening by using microwave energy to cause localised shrinkage around an annulus of the cornea leading to its flattening and vision correction. The effects on the corneal extracellular matrix, however, have not yet been evaluated, thus the current study to assess post-procedure ultrastructural changes in an in-vivo rabbit model. To achieve this a series of small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) experiments were carried out across whole transects of treated and untreated rabbit corneas at 0.25 mm intervals, which indicated no significant change in collagen intra-fibrillar parameters (i.e. collagen fibril diameter or axial D-period), whereas inter-fibrillar measures (i.e. fibril spacing and the degree of spatial order) were markedly altered in microwave-treated regions of the cornea. These structural matrix alterations in microwave-treated corneas have predicted implications for corneal biomechanical strength and tissue transparency, and, we contend, potentially render microwave-treated corneas resistant to surgical stabilization using corneal cross-linking procedures currently employed to combat refractive error caused by corneal steepening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Collagen
  • Cornea / pathology
  • Cornea / radiation effects
  • Corneal Stroma / pathology*
  • Corneal Stroma / radiation effects
  • Corneal Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Extracellular Matrix / pathology
  • Extracellular Matrix / radiation effects*
  • Fibrillar Collagens / genetics
  • Humans
  • Microwaves / adverse effects
  • Microwaves / therapeutic use
  • Myopia / pathology
  • Myopia / therapy*
  • Rabbits
  • Scattering, Small Angle
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Fibrillar Collagens
  • Collagen