PURPOSE: To examine the microstructure of the cornea after excimer and femtosecond laser-assisted penetrating keratoplasty (ELAK and FLAK) in eyes with Fuchs' dystrophy and keratoconus. METHODS: Fifty-seven patients were divided into four groups according to corneal disease and surgical technique: Fuchs' dystrophy and ELAK (n = 9; mean age: 70.4 ± 10.6 years); Fuchs' dystrophy and FLAK (n = 13; mean age: 64.3 ± 11.2 years); keratoconus and ELAK (n = 9; mean age: 47.4 ± 13.9 years); and keratoconus and FLAK (n = 9; mean age: 43.5 ± 13.8 years). The control group comprised individuals without ocular disease (n = 17; mean age: 39.9 ± 17.3 years). In vivo investigation of the corneal graft and graft-host junction zone was performed with confocal corneal microscopy. RESULTS: All corneal grafts were transparent and no rejection reaction could be observed during the followup period. Confocal microscopy revealed no difference in basal epithelial cell density compared to controls. Anterior keratocyte density was lower than in the control group (818 ± 131 cells/mm2) in all four treatment groups (596 ± 174, 586 ± 113, 529 ± 75, 552 ± 91 cells/mm2). Langerhans cells could barely be seen; there was no difference in the cutting edge configuration and wound integrity. CONCLUSIONS: In vivo confocal microscopy provided evidence that good alignment of graft-host junction could be created with both techniques. The excimer laser was not inferior to the femtosecond laser in performing corneal cuts. The low density of Langerhans cells revealed well-controlled cellular immunological response and sustained corneal integrity in both laser groups.
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