To compare the long-term outcomes of living-related conjunctival limbal allograft (lr-CLAL) with keratolimbal allograft (KLAL) in patients with limbal stem cell deficiency.
A retrospective, comparative, interventional cohort of patients with bilateral total limbal stem cell deficiency who underwent surgical treatment with a KLAL or lr-CLAL procedure alone (not combined with any other ocular surface stem cell transplantation procedures) with a minimum follow-up of 1 year and who received systemic immunosuppression. Ocular surface stability, best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), and postoperative complications at the last follow-up were the main outcome measures.
There were 224 eyes that underwent KLAL alone and 63 eyes that underwent lr-CLAL alone, with a mean follow-up time for all eyes of 7.2 years (range 1.0–16.0 years). For lr-CLAL eyes, 82.5% maintained a stable ocular surface compared with 64.7% of KLAL eyes at the last follow-up. Only 6.3% of lr-CLAL eyes demonstrated a failed ocular surface compared with 15.6% of KLAL eyes. The mean BCVA was 20/158 for KLAL eyes compared with 20/100 for lr-CLAL eyes at the last follow-up. A smaller proportion of lr-CLAL eyes (30.2% compared with 43.3%) developed an episode of acute rejection, and a higher proportion of these episodes resolved with treatment in the lr-CLAL group (79.0% compared with 53.6%).
lr-CLAL demonstrates lower rejection rates, improved graft survival, and better BCVA compared with KLAL. Both careful preoperative donor selection and triple-agent systemic immunosuppression (including tapered systemic corticosteroids) are critical to optimizing the ocular surface stem cell transplantation outcomes.