Descemet Membrane Thickening as a Sign for the Diagnosis of Corneal Graft Rejection: An Ex Vivo Study

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Abstract

Purpose:

To disclose, using an ex vivo study, the histopathological mechanism behind in vivo thickening of the endothelium/Descemet membrane complex (En/DM) observed in rejected corneal grafts (RCGs).

Methods:

Descemet membrane (DM), endothelium, and retrocorneal membranes make up the total En/DM thickness. These layers are not differentiable by high-definition optical coherence tomography; therefore, the source of thickening is unclear from an in vivo perspective. A retrospective ex vivo study (from September 2015 to December 2015) was conducted to measure the thicknesses of DM, endothelium, and retrocorneal membrane in 54 corneal specimens (31 RCGs and 23 controls) using light microscopy. Controls were globes with posterior melanoma without corneal involvement.

Results:

There were 54 corneas examined ex vivo with mean age 58.1 ± 12.2 in controls and 51.7 ± 27.9 years in RCGs. The ex vivo study uncovered the histopathological mechanism of En/DM thickening to be secondary to significant thickening (P < 0.001) of DM (6.5 ± 2.4 μm) in RCGs compared with controls (3.9 ± 1.5 μm).

Conclusions:

Our ex vivo study shows that DM is responsible for thickening of the En/DM in RCGs observed in vivo by high-definition optical coherence tomography and not the endothelium or retrocorneal membrane.

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