A Practical Approach to Interpretation of Corneal Specimens

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Corneal specimens form only a small part of the routine practice for most histopathologists but their assessment often requires considerable effort and specialized knowledge. The most common corneal specimens, full-thickness corneal discs and corneal biopsies, are discussed in this review. Corneal discs removed at keratoplasty are non-urgent specimens, as definitive treatment has already been undertaken, and while the pathologic diagnosis may change the prognosis for the graft, it rarely affects immediate treatment. Accurate diagnosis is still important, and will affect counseling of the patient, but referral to a colleague with a special interest is possible if necessary. Conversely, small partial-thickness corneal biopsies, which are mostly undertaken for culture negative keratitis with underlying suspected infection, are very urgent. Infectious keratitis can follow an extremely aggressive course, resulting in destruction of the cornea within hours. Accurate diagnosis is imperative. Due to the urgency of such specimens and the importance of diagnosis for immediate treatment, referral is not usually possible. It is the role of the pathologist to make optimal use of a small specimen to reach the relevant diagnosis in the minimum space of time.

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