PURPOSE: To investigate the long-term corneal changes in patients with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy contributing to superior postoperative visual outcomes after Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK) compared with Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK). METHODS: Using retrospective analysis, we evaluated 9 patients with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy who underwent DSAEK in 1 eye and DMEK in the fellow eye. Patients were genotyped for the triplet repeat expansion in the TCF4 gene and imaged using optical coherence tomography, Scheimpflug imaging, and in vivo confocal microscopy through focusing. RESULTS: Eight of 9 subjects were genotyped, and all were found to harbor the triplet repeat expansion. The average time between endothelial keratoplasty and imaging was 76 ± 22 and 37 ± 9 months after DSAEK and DMEK, respectively. The mean best spectacle-corrected visual acuity (logMAR) was 0.04 ± 0.05 and 0.11 ± 0.03 in the DMEK eyes versus DSAEK eyes (P = 0.02), respectively. Posterior corneal higher order aberrations were less in the DMEK eyes compared with fellow DSAEK eyes (0.25 ± 0.06 and 0.66 ± 0.25, respectively, P ≤ 0.01). Using confocal microscopy through focusing, we found that the persistent anterior stromal haze was correlated between the right and left eyes (R = 0.73, P ≤ 0.05), but total stromal backscattering was higher for the DSAEK eyes (P ≤ 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: DSAEK inherently results in higher total stromal backscattering (haze) compared with DMEK because of the addition of stromal tissue. Lower higher order aberrations of the posterior cornea and lower total stromal backscattering (haze) may both contribute to superior visual outcomes after DMEK compared with DSAEK.
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