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Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) is a severe complication of diabetes and is a leading cause of visual decline and irreversible blindness. So we designed this study to investigate retrospectively the effect of preoperative photocoagulation on corneal endothelial cells after vitrectomy in patients with PDR.The study included 52 eyes of 46 patients with PDR complicated with vitreous hemorrhage, who underwent vitrectomy. Patients were apportioned to a photocoagulation group (26 eyes/23 patients) or nonphotocoagulation group (26/23 patients), according to their history of preoperative photocoagulation. A specular microscope was used to assess the corneal endothelial cell density and percentage of hexagonal cells (PHC) before surgery, and at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months after surgery.The cell density was lower 3 months after surgery in the photocoagulation group, but at 1 month in the nonphotocoagulation group, all cases were significantly different from the preoperative value (P < .05 or P < .01). One week after surgery, the mean cell densities between the photocoagulation and nonphotocoagulation groups were not statistically different (P > .05). However, the mean cell densities at 1 and 3 months after surgery in the photocoagulation group were significantly higher than those in the nonphotocoagulation group (P < .05). The PHC values in the photocoagulation group at 1 week and in the nonphotocoagulation group at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months were much lower than their respective preoperative values (P < .05 or P < .01). More importantly, at 1 and 3 months, the PHC had recovered to preoperative values in the photocoagulation group, but not in the nonphotocoagulation group. As for cell density and PHC, they were both significantly higher 1 and 3 months after surgery in the photocoagulation group than in the nonphotocoagulation group (P < .05).Photocoagulation before vitrectomy reduces subsequent corneal endothelial cell damage in PDR patients.