Unaddressed Factors and Their Role in Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty Outcomes: Comments on “Clinical Outcomes of Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty Using a Preloaded Imported Graft”

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Korean J Ophthalmol. 2024;38(3):272-273
Publication date (electronic) : 2024 April 08
doi : https://doi.org/10.3341/kjo.2023.0103
1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
2Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass Eye and Ear, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
3Eye Unit, Department of Medical and Surgical Specialties, Radiological Sciences, and Public Health, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
4Eye Unit, ASST Spedali Civili di Brescia, Brescia, Italy
Corresponding Author: Alexander Wallace, MSc. Department of Ophthalmology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. Tel: 44-151-794-2000, Fax: 44-030-399-5308, Email: A.G.Wallace2@student.liverpool.ac.uk
Received 2023 September 18; Accepted 2024 March 19.

Dear Editor,

We read with interest the paper by Kim et al. [1] reporting South Korea’s first long-term clinical outcomes of Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK). Since DMEK has emerged as the preferential endothelial keratoplasty technique there is increasing importance to investigate and report the outcomes from different centres and techniques.

Several factors are known to influence DMEK graft performance and patient outcomes. Our concern is that many of these are not considered by the authors of this paper and may be key in explaining the study’s high rebubbling rate (25%) and low endothelial cell density (ECD) at 24 months. An existing association has been made between lower ECD, which could stem from the unaddressed factors, and rebubbling which may lead to graft failure [2].

Reporting donor characteristics is essential and would strengthen the authors’ conclusions. Younger graft donors (typically under 50 years) provide healthier endothelial cells and a higher ECD preoperatively and postoperatively offering better visual outcomes [3]. Although older donors may still be suitable, the grafts are stiffer, requiring more intraoperative manipulation leading to lower ECD and higher rebubbling and failure rates [3]. Donor comorbidity is a critical factor influencing graft performance. Diabetes reduces donor ECD and graft preparation is more difficult, potentially causing more endothelial cell damage; ultimately, fewer endothelial cells are transplanted, leading to poorer patient outcomes [4]. Other donor characteristic factors that can affect DMEK success not considered in this paper include previous cataract surgery, race, and sex [3].

Preparation and transportation timings are critical to DMEK outcomes. The authors neglect to mention the graft peel time, a shorter peel time reduces the exposure of endothelial cells to potential damage affecting graft outcomes [5]. The authors mention a delay between graft preparation, overseas shipping, and surgery of approximately 6 to 8 days. Specificity is crucial here to allow a full assessment of the DMEK performance. Time-in-preservation is another important consideration overlooked, prolonged time-in-preservation increases exposure to transportation media and potential damage to endothelial cells [5]. Additional timing considerations include death-to-preparation and death-to-transplantation.

Graft preparation is fundamental to DMEK’s success. Although not explicitly stated the authors imply that the grafts are prestripped and preloaded at the eye bank rather than in surgery. This distinction is key since grafts stripped and loaded in surgery are associated with lower rebubbling rates [5].

Regarding graft transportation, providing the graft storage time in the respective media would provide insight into the potential effects on graft performance including graft-to-recipient adhesion and rebubbling rates [2].

The findings of this paper valuably contribute to the evolving DMEK field. However, the lack of details regarding donor characteristics and graft preparation limits the ability to compare the results to former preloaded DMEK studies. The addition of these would allow for a more comprehensive understanding of DMEK’s performance in South Korea.




Conflicts of Interest: None.

Funding: None.


1. Kim M, Kim KH, Lee HK. Clinical outcomes of Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty using a preloaded imported graft. Korean J Ophthalmol 2023;37:373–9.
2. Leon P, Parekh M, Nahum Y, et al. Factors associated with early graft detachment in primary Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty. Am J Ophthalmol 2018;187:117–24.
3. Schrittenlocher S, Matthaei M, Bachmann B, Cursiefen C. The Cologne-Mecklenburg-Vorpommern DMEK Donor Study (COMEDOS): design and review of the influence of donor characteristics on Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK) outcome. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2022;260:2417–26.
4. Zhang K, Zhao L, Zhu C, et al. The effect of diabetes on corneal endothelium: a meta-analysis. BMC Ophthalmol 2021;21:78.
5. Parekh M, Pedrotti E, Viola P, et al. Factors affecting the success rate of preloaded Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty with endothelium-inward technique: a multi-center clinical study. Am J Ophthalmol 2022;241:272–81.

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