To evaluate retrospectively the outcomes of a case series of deep anterior lamellar keratoplasties by air dissection (DALK-AD) using the big bubble (BB) technique, in the surgical treatment of keratoconus (KC).
Forty-four consecutive keratoplasties of 42 patients for KC were performed at the French National Reference Center for KC from January 2008 to June 2010 by the same surgeon with the aim of systematically performing DALK-AD with the BB technique. The outcomes of the DALK-AD not converted to penetrating keratoplasty were analyzed, and a learning curve was established to successfully achieve the DALK-AD using the BB technique.
Thirty-two DALK-AD procedures were successfully performed among 44 consecutively operated keratoplasties, with 12 being converted to penetrating keratoplasty during the surgical procedure. At 12 months, the mean best-corrected logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution visual acuity was 0.88 ± 0.14 with 93.3% seeing best-corrected visual acuity ≥20/30 and 100% seeing best-corrected visual acuity ≥20/40. The mean gain of visual acuity in logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution lines at 6 and 12 months was 6.12 ± 3.97 (P < 0.0001) and 6.94 ± 4.18 (P < 0.005), respectively. The rate for intraoperative and postoperative complications was 31.8% and 4.5%, respectively.
Despite a learning period needed to successfully perform deep lamellar anterior keratoplasty with the BB technique, this approach is safe and provides very good visual outcomes when adequate baring of Descemet membrane is achieved. The learning curve showed that complications related to this technique decrease significantly after the first 10 cases.