Purpose: The Baerveldt glaucoma implant is an aqueous shunting device with large surface area that is installed through a single-quadrant conjunctival incision. A rabbit model of the Baerveldt implant was created to obtain serial histology and clinical information over 1 year.
Methods: Modified versions of the Baerveldt implant (110 or 160 mm2) were implanted in 18 normal New Zealand white rabbit eyes. The rabbits were examined periodically and their intraocular pressures (IOPs) recorded. They were killed at monthly intervals to obtain histology of the bleb capsules.
Results: Thin capsules were present at 1 month, which consisted of lamellar collagen deposition surrounded by a granulomatous reaction with multinucleate giant cells. Inflammatory cells (probably macrophages) were scattered on the inner bleb surface. The granulomatous reaction resolved after 4 months. Subsequently, capsule thickness and cellularity remained relatively stable, although the collagen stroma became less compact over time. Sixteen rabbit eyes had initial IOP reductions of > or = 3 mm Hg compared with fellow eyes, which persisted up to 4 weeks postoperatively. Seven eyes (39%) exhibited a hypertensive phase (IOP exceeded that of fellow eye by > or = 3 mm Hg) from 2 weeks to 3 months postoperatively.
Conclusion: The Baerveldt explant is surrounded by a fibrous capsule that matures over time. The bleb histology in the rabbit model is similar to that described with the Molteno implant in primates and humans, except for the eventual development of a fibroblastic inner lining in the rabbit model. This contrasts with primate and human models, in which the inner lining remains an open mesh.