A modified tandem scanning confocal microscope was used for real-time in vivo examination of the rabbit cornea following a cryogenic injury. The corneas of New Zealand white rabbits were frozen with a probe that had been cooled by immersion in liquid nitrogen, effectively destroying keratocytes in a central 5 mm diameter zone throughout the total thickness of the cornea. In these eyes, keratocyte repopulation and corneal stromal wound healing proceeded similarly to that which occurs after epikeratophakia, a refractive surgical procedure designed to change the curvature and optical power of the cornea. In epikeratophakia, a cryolathed donor corneal stroma lenticule is sutured onto the bare stroma of the recipient cornea. The collagen tissue lenticule is repopulated by keratocytes (corneal fibroblasts) that migrate in from the host cornea. In our study, the confocal microscope permitted sequential, noninvasive examination of the corneal stroma in the treated animals. Necrosis of the keratocytes, followed by activation of the remaining viable cells in the corneal periphery, was observed in the first 2 to 3 days after cryo injury. A fine stromal fibrous network was seen to develop; in three eyes, this network progressed to the development of a retrocorneal fibrous membrane and dense stromal fibrosis, both of which resulted in significant loss of corneal clarity. Our results suggest that the confocal microscope may be a valuable tool to provide much needed information on wound healing processes at the cellular level after corneal surgery and injury.