Purpose With the introduction of Bowman layer onlay transplantation (BLOT), the need for BL transplants increases.
In this study, the clinical outcomes of BLOT are described and the results of three different BL graft preparation methods are evaluated: manually (m-BL), femtosecond laser-assisted (fs-BL), and femtosecond laser-assisted followed by excimer laser (fs/ex-BL).
Method Twenty-one eyes with advanced progressive keratoconus underwent BLOT with m-BL. Best spectacle- and/or best contact lens-corrected visual acuity (BSCVA/BCLVA), corneal tomography, and complications were recorded. Follow-up ranged from 6-36 months with a mean follow-up time of 21±12 months.
To evaluate BL preparation methods, Descemet membrane-denuded donor corneas (n=41) were used (n=2 for m-BL, n=18 for fs-BL and n=21 for fs/ex-BL). For fs-BL, corneas were placed on an artificial anterior chamber and different depth cuts were performed with decreasing decrements starting from 30 µm (diameter 9.0 mm). For fs/ex-BL, a superficial flap of 80 µm was created by the femtosecond laser (FEMTO-LDV Z8, Ziemer). Followed by residual stroma ablation by excimer laser (Schwind Amaris 750S) with increasing increments. Grafts were analyzed visually, and graft thickness regularity was evaluated by histological analysis and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).
Results All twenty-one surgeries could be performed without intraoperative complications. Average maximum keratometry changed from 75.8±12D preoperatively to 72.2±9D at the last available follow-up (n=21, P<0.05), and BSCVA/BCLVA improved. Five patients required a regraft; four of those because of a graft detachment within one week.
Evaluation of BL-preparation methods: Fs-BL preparation was successful until 14µm cuts (success rate: 12 out of 14, 86%). Fs/ex-BL graft preparation was most successful after an 80µm cut by femtosecond laser with subsequent 60µm ablation by excimer laser (success rate: 15 out of 21, 71%). After the femtosecond laser cut, traces of the femtosecond laser treatment were visible on the flap. While m-BL showed long protruding stromal fibers, they were shorter in fs-BL and absent in fs/ex-BL.
Conclusion BL-onlay grafting may be a feasible surgical technique, providing on average -3D of corneal flattening in eyes with advanced progressive keratoconus, while improving patient’s visual acuity.
Fs-BL and fs/ex-BL preparation may be faster alternatives to manual BL graft preparation.
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