JOURNAL ARTICLE

Treatment of persistent corneal epithelial defect with extended wear of a fluid-ventilated gas-permeable scleral contact lens

P Rosenthal, J M Cotter, J Baum
American Journal of Ophthalmology 2000, 130 (1): 33-41
11004257

PURPOSE: To report treatment of persistent corneal epithelial defects unresponsive to other therapies by extended wear of a fluid-ventilated gas-permeable scleral contact lens.

METHODS: In this retrospective study, 14 eyes of 13 consecutive patients referred for the treatment of persistent corneal epithelial defects that failed to heal with conventional therapies or developed epithelial defects after penetrating keratoplasty for persistent corneal epithelial defects were fitted with an extended-wear gas-permeable scleral lens. These included seven eyes of six patients with Stevens-Johnson syndrome and seven eyes of seven patients who did not have Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Twelve eyes had undergone recent penetrating keratoplasty. All 14 eyes were fitted with a gas-permeable scleral contact lens designed to avoid the intrusion of air bubbles under its optic. An antibiotic and corticosteroid were added to the lens fluid reservoir or instilled before each lens insertion in 12 of 14 eyes. The lenses were worn continuously except for brief periods of removal for purposes of cleaning, replacement of the lens fluid reservoir, and examination and photography of the cornea.

RESULTS: Five of the seven persistent corneal epithelial defects associated with Stevens-Johnson syndrome healed. The persistent corneal epithelial defects of four of these eyes re-epithelialized within 7 days, and a fifth healed in 27 days of gas-permeable scleral lens extended wear. A sixth persistent corneal epithelial defect that failed to heal initially re-epithelialized after a subsequent penetrating keratoplasty and gas-permeable scleral lens extended wear. The seventh eye healed after 3 days of gas-permeable scleral lens extended wear, but the persistent corneal epithelial defect subsequently recurred. Three of seven non-Stevens-Johnson syndrome persistent corneal epithelial defects re-epithelialized within 36 hours, 6 days, and 36 days, respectively. Of the six (six of 14) persistent corneal epithelial defects that failed to heal with a gas-permeable scleral lens extended wear, one subsequently healed after multiple amniotic membrane grafts. Microbial keratitis occurred in four eyes (four of 14) and graft failure in one eye, all of which required repeat penetrating keratoplasty.

CONCLUSION: Extended wear of an appropriately designed gas-permeable scleral contact lens was effective in promoting the healing of persistent corneal epithelial defects in some eyes that failed to heal after other therapeutic measures. Re-epithelialization appears to be aided by a combination of oxygenation, moisture, and protection of the fragile epithelium afforded by the scleral lens. However, microbial keratitis represents a significant risk.

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