Differential Survival of Penetrating and Lamellar Transplants in Management of Failed Corneal Grafts

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An increasing proportion of corneal transplant procedures are undertaken for replacement of a failed previous graft. The proportion of lamellar transplant procedures has significantly increased. There are limited large-scale reports on regraft procedures that may help guide surgeons and patients in their choice of surgery.


To examine the corneal transplant replacement survival rates for the 3 main indications and types of regraft surgery.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This national transplant registry study examined surgery and follow-up data on all corneal transplants performed in the United Kingdom from April 1, 1999, through March 31, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Actuarial regraft 5-year survival rates were compared for the 3 main indications and types of graft: penetrating keratoplasty (PK) and deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty for keratoconus, PK and endothelial keratoplasty (EK) for Fuchs endothelial dystrophy (FED), and pseudophakic bullous keratopathy (PBK).


A total of 9925 regrafts were analyzed during the 17-year study period. Penetrating keratoplasty represented 7261 cases (73.2%) in the cohort. Endothelial keratoplasty increased by 1361.5%, from 12 (2.6%; 95% CI, 1.3%-4.5%) of all 467 regrafts during 2005-2006 to 292 (38.0%; 95% CI, 34.6%-41.6%) of 768 during 2015-2016. The median time to first regraft for all graft types was 28 months (interquartile range, 10-64 months). When examining all graft types performed for all indications, stratification of 5-year survival was found for successive grafts, with a difference in survival of 25 270 (72.5%; 95% CI, 71.7%-73.2%) from the first graft to 4224 (53.4%; 95% CI, 51.4%-55.4%) from the second graft and 1088 (37.3%; 95% CI, 33.4%-41.3%) from the second to third graft. For first regrafts in keratoconus and PBK, survival after lamellar and PK procedures was similar. For FED, there was a higher regraft survival after PK (375 [70.8%]; 95% CI, 64.6%-76.1%) compared with EK (303 [54.7%]; 95% CI, 45.8%-62.8%) (P < .001). For FED and PBK, there was no difference in first regraft survival identified between EK followed by PK vs PK followed by PK or EK followed by EK vs PK followed by EK.

Conclusions and Relevance

In this large registry-based analysis of corneal regraft survival, regraft survival was found to vary with indication for first graft surgery and for FED with type of regraft procedure performed. For FED and PBK, the permutation of graft and subsequent first regraft procedure were not associated with any survival benefit for the first regraft. These reported outcomes may assist decision-making in management of a failed corneal transplant.

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