PURPOSE: To investigate the effect of phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK) treatment on corneal epithelial wing cell and corneal subbasal nerve density in epithelial basement membrane dystrophy (EBMD).
METHODS: A total of 39 patients with EBMD who underwent PTK treatment, 40 healthy volunteers, and 24 untreated eyes with EBMD were examined with laser-scanning in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM). Corneal subbasal nerves and epithelial wing cells were manually quantified from IVCM images by two observers, while epithelial wing cells were additionally quantified by a fully automated method.
RESULTS: Subbasal nerve density was significantly reduced in untreated (10,164 ± 4139 μm/mm(2); n = 24) and PTK-treated (10,624 ± 4479 μm/mm(2); n = 39) EBMD eyes, relative to healthy controls (18,241 ± 4479 μm/mm(2); n = 40) (P < 0.001). Subbasal nerve density in PTK-treated and untreated eyes did not differ (P > 0.05). Epithelial wing cell density did not differ between PTK-treated and untreated EBMD eyes, by either manual or automated analysis; however, epithelial wing cell density in PTK-treated EBMD corneas was significantly reduced (P = 0.008) relative to healthy corneas, by automated cell counting.
CONCLUSIONS: Subbasal nerve density in EBMD is reduced by 45% and recovers only to the reduced level in the long term after PTK treatment, whereas epithelial wing cell density in EBMD is not affected by PTK in the long term. Fully automated cell analysis from IVCM images could provide an objective, standardized means to quantify and compare corneal cell densities in future studies.
2014. Vol. 55, no 3, 1835-1841 p.