Purpose: The purpose of this study is to describe a simple but novel 60-second swelling technique for ultrathin Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK) graft preparation. In addition, we aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique in obtaining thinner DSAEK grafts more consistently without compromising graft quality.
Methods: We performed a retrospective case-control study comparing standard DSAEK preparation using an ML7 Microkeratome Donor Cornea System (Med-Logics Inc, Athens, TX) with an additional 60 seconds of stromal swelling with a balanced salt solution after the removal of the epithelium but before the microkeratome pass. Thirty cases using this novel swelling technique were compared with controls matched by age, sex, and precut corneal thickness. Donor characteristics and both precut and postcut graft characteristics were analyzed.
Results: DSAEK grafts prepared with our simple swelling method were approximately 13 μm thinner on average than those prepared with our conventional ultrathin DSAEK preparation technique (P = 0.001). The frequency of grafts less than 100 μm was much greater with swelling (93.3% vs. 63.3% with conventional technique, P = 0.0052). There were no significant differences in postcut cell counts or decrease in cell counts between the groups.
Conclusions: A simple 60-second swelling technique can yield significantly thinner DSAEK tissue in a more consistent range without a significant impact on the endothelial cell count.