Autologous limbal transplantation in patients with unilateral corneal stem cell deficiency

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Aim - To describe a surgical technique for autologous limbal stem cell transplantation and the outcome of a series of patients with unilateral stem cell deficiency. Methods - A report of six consecutive patients who underwent autologous limbal stem cell transplantation is presented. The primary diagnosis included alkali burn (n = 3), conjunctival intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) (n = 1), recurrent pterygium (n = 1), and contact lens induced keratopathy (n = 1). The autologous transplanted tissue consisted of peripheral cornea, limbus, and conjunctiva obtained from the contralateral eye. Three of the above patients underwent penetrating keratoplasty in association with autolimbal transplantation. A significant modification to established techniques was the close monitoring of conjunctival epithelial migration in the immediate postoperative period. If conjunctival epithelium threatened to migrate on to the corneal surface, it was mechanically removed at the slit lamp and prevented from crossing the limbus. This was required in three patients. Results - The mean follow up was 18.8 months. The outcome was satisfactory in all cases: a stable corneal surface was restored and there was a substantial improvement in vision and symptoms. One patient had a primary failure of the corneal allograft associated with glaucoma, and 6 months later developed a retinal detachment. No complications were noted in the donor eye with the exception of one patient who developed filamentary keratitis along the edge of the donor site. Conclusion - Autologous limbal transplantation with corneal, limbal, and conjunctival carriers was found to be useful for ocular surface reconstruction, over a mid-term follow up, in patients with unilateral stem cell deficiency. Close monitoring of the migration of conjunctival epithelium in the immediate postoperative period, and preventing it from crossing the limbus, ensured that the corneal surface was re-epithelialised exclusively from epithelial cells derived from the transplanted limbal tissue. This approach should improve the success of this procedure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-278
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2000

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