Topical treatment with nerve growth factor for corneal neurotrophic ulcers

N Engl J Med. 1998 Apr 23;338(17):1174-80. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199804233381702.


Background: Corneal neurotrophic ulcers associated with impairment of sensory innervation of the cornea may lead to loss of vision, and there is no effective treatment for these ulcers. We evaluated the effects of nerve growth factor in patients with this disorder.

Methods: Twelve patients (14 eyes) with severe neurotrophic corneal ulcers associated with corneal anesthesia were treated with topical nerve growth factor 10 times daily for two days and then 6 times daily until the ulcers healed. Treatment continued for 2 weeks after the ulcers healed, and the patients were then followed for up to 12 months. The evolution of the corneal disease during treatment and follow-up was evaluated by slit-lamp examination, photography, fluorescein-dye testing, and tests of corneal sensitivity and best corrected visual acuity.

Results: Corneal healing began 2 to 14 days after the initiation of treatment with nerve growth factor, and all patients had complete healing of their corneal ulcers after 10 days to 6 weeks of treatment. Corneal sensitivity improved in 13 eyes, and returned to normal in 2 of the 13 eyes. Corneal integrity and sensitivity were maintained during the follow-up period (range, 3 to 12 months). Best corrected visual acuity increased progressively during treatment and follow-up in all patients. There were no systemic or local side effects of treatment.

Conclusions: In this preliminary, uncontrolled study, topically applied exogenous nerve growth factor restored corneal integrity in patients with corneal neurotrophic ulcers.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cornea / innervation
  • Corneal Ulcer / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Growth Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Trigeminal Nerve
  • Visual Acuity


  • Nerve Growth Factors