Background/purpose: Selective removal of interrupted sutures and adjustment of a running suture can minimize astigmatism after penetrating keratoplasty, but the long-term effects of early suture manipulations remain largely unknown. The authors tested the hypothesis that the cornea becomes "fixed" more than 1 year after keratoplasty so that desirable refractive results will remain when all sutures are eventually removed.
Methods: The authors reviewed retrospectively the changes in astigmatism that occurred when all remaining sutures were removed from 162 eyes 1 to 6 years after penetrating keratoplasty. Single-running sutures were used in 130 eyes, double-running sutures in 20 eyes, and a combination of interrupted and running sutures in 12 eyes.
Results: Removal of single-running sutures caused an average decrease in astigmatism of 0.52 diopters (D) from 6.10 +/- 4.41 D to 5.57 +/- 3.14 D. However, the astigmatism in 62% of eyes changed 2 or more D (range, 11.94 to -17.87 D), and the range changed more than 20 degrees in 55% of eyes. The average vectorial change was 6.5 +/- 4.3 D (range, 0.59 to 19.8 D). There was no decrease in the amount of astigmatic change with increasing time between surgery and suture removal. Graft size and diagnosis had no effect on the amount of astigmatic change. Astigmatic errors became stable, with less than 1 D of change between successive examinations within 6 months after suture removal. Similar results were obtained for eyes with double-running and interrupted-running sutures.
Conclusions: Corneal astigmatism may change unpredictably and by large amounts when all remaining sutures are removed 1 to 6 years after penetrating keratoplasty.