Combined Specular Microscopy and Scheimpflug Imaging to Improve Detection of an Upcoming Allograft Rejection After DMEK

Acta Ophthalmol. 2020 May;98(3):261-266. doi: 10.1111/aos.14234. Epub 2019 Sep 4.


Purpose: To assess whether combined analysis of specular microscopy and Scheimpflug imaging improves detection of an upcoming allograft rejection following Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK).

Methods: Retrospective analysis of 22 eyes that had developed a clinical proven allograft rejection 28 (±22) months (range: 4-84 months) after DMEK. Specular microscopy and Scheimpflug images routinely made after DMEK were retrospectively analysed for changes in endothelial cell morphology (e.g. nuclear activation), cell density (>10%) and pachymetry (>7%), and/or the presence of subclinical keratic precipitates. The same parameters were evaluated for 22 control eyes matched for age, gender and surgery indication.

Results: A total of 20/22 eyes (91%) showed detectable changes 0.25-75 months before allograft rejection became clinically manifest: 13/22 (59%) showed both specular microscopy and Scheimpflug imaging changes; 5/22 (23%) only had changes on Scheimpflug imaging; and 2/22 (9%) only had specular microscopy changes. In 18/22 (82%) and 14/22 (64%) eyes, subclinical keratic precipitates and endothelial cell morphology changes could be detected, respectively. A total of 11/22 (50%) eyes concurrently showed a >10% drop in endothelial cell density and 4/22 (18%) a >7% pachymetry increase. Of the control eyes, 7/22 (32%) showed changes with specular microscopy but not with Scheimpflug imaging.

Conclusions: Combined analysis of specular microscopy and Scheimpflug imaging may allow recognizing an upcoming allograft rejection in over 90% of eyes and up to 6 years before rejection becomes clinically manifest. Early recognition of eyes at risk may allow for targeted intensified steroid treatment to prevent endothelial cell damage associated with rejection.

Keywords: Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty; Scheimpflug imaging; allograft rejection; endothelial cell density; pachymetry; specular microscopy.