Purpose: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the biomicroscopic, light microscopic, and electron microscopic effects of ultraviolet-B (UV-B) exposure on the outcome of photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Methods: A total of 24 pigmented rabbits were used in the study. One eye of 16 rabbits received a 193-nm, 45-μm deep (-5.0 diopter) excimer laser PRK. Twenty-one days after PRK, eight of the laser-treated eyes were exposed to 100 mJ/cm2 UV-B (280-315 nm) UV radiation by placing the rabbits in a standard clinically used dermatologic chamber for 7 minutes. Eight PRK-treated rabbits received no further treatment. The remaining eight non-PRK-treated rabbits received 100 mJ/cm2 UV-B only to one eye. Subepithelial haze was assessed before and after UV irradiation. Corneal morphology was assessed 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks after UV-B exposure, using light microscopic and transmission electron microscopic (TEM) techniques. Results: Untreated eyes exposed to 100 mJ/cm2 UV-B only exhibited photokeratitis for 2 days, but showed no haze and were normal histologically at all intervals. The PRK-treated UV-B irradiated eyes exhibited a significant increase of stromal haze compared to eyes receiving PRK alone. Histologically, the main difference between the UV-B irradiated and nonirradiated post-PRK eyes was the presence of anterior stromal extracellular vacuolization in the UV-B-exposed eyes. The vacuolated foci were confined to the PRK treatment area and showed increased keratocyte density and disorganization of normal collagen lamellae. TEM showed activated keratocytes containing abundant rough endoplasmic reticulum, prominent Golgi zones, and extracellular vacuoles filled with amorphous material. The haze and morphologic changes showed a tendency to incomplete resolution over the period of 16 weeks. Conclusions: The UV-B exposure during post-PRK stromal healing exacerbates and prolongs the stromal healing response and is manifest biomicroscopically by augmentation of subepithelial haze. The findings suggest that excessive ocular UV-B exposure should be avoided during the period of post-PRK stromal repair and that UV-B may modulate the response of tissues to 193-nm excimer laser and perhaps other laser in general.
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