To assess the clinical outcome after successful rebubbling procedures for visually significant graft detachment after Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK).
From a total of 760 consecutive DMEK surgeries, 41 eyes required rebubbling. Of those, 33 eyes of 31 patients were successful and were included in our retrospective outcome analysis study. Main outcome measures were compared with those of matched controls with uneventful primary DMEK (attached DMEK grafts without rebubbling). Rebubbling was performed on average 25 (±20) days (range 7–91 days) after DMEK. All eyes were evaluated for best-corrected visual acuity, endothelial cell density (ECD), pachymetry, and complications up to 6 months after rebubbling.
At 6 months after DMEK, best-corrected visual acuity in rebubbled eyes did not differ from that in control eyes (P = 0.514). The mean ECD decrease was higher in rebubbled than in control eyes (54% vs. 35%, respectively, P = 0.001). Pachymetry did not differ between both groups (P = 0.153). After rebubbling, one buphthalmic eye showed temporary intraocular pressure elevation and 5 eyes had minor graft edge detachment that did not require further treatment.
Rebubbling for DMEK graft detachment may result in similar visual outcomes as in uncomplicated DMEK, when performed within the first 6 to 8 postoperative weeks. However, rebubbled eyes may have lower ECD, which may be attributed to additional air bubble trauma and/or selection bias through more extensive manipulation during initial DMEK or higher risk of graft detachment in more complicated eyes.