Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty Outcomes between Young and Old Graft Recipients

Asaf Achiron*, Yoav Nahum, Alon Tiosano, Raneen Shehadeh Mashor, Raimo Tuuminen, Uri Elbaz, Irit Bahar, Eitan Livny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To evaluated Descemet’s membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK) outcomes in young and old graft recipients. Materials and Methods: Data of 164 surgeries with a median age of 76 years (interquartile range 14 years) undergoing DMEK surgery between 2016 and 2018 was reviewed. Complications, graft survival, and visual acuity gain were compared between subjects in the 25th percentile (young recipients; aged 70 years and less, n = 21) and 75th percentile (old recipients; aged 85 years and over, n = 27) over the 2-year follow-up. Results: Young recipients had a lower rate of pre-operative glaucoma (14.3% vs. 51.9%, p = .014) and pseudophakic bullous keratopathy (9.5% vs. 59.3%, p < .001), and a higher rate of Fuchs endothelial dystrophy (57.1% vs. 14.8%, p = .002) and combined cataract extraction at the time of DMEK surgery (52.4% vs. 7.4%, p = .001) when compared to old recipients. Complications (primary graft failure, pupillary block, cystoid macular edema or infectious keratitis) were independent of graft recipient age. Descemet’s membrane detachment requiring re-bubbling was observed more often in young compared to the old recipients (42.9% vs. 14.8%, p = .049). Visual acuity gain between the groups remained comparable up to 1-year, whereas at 2-years old recipients showed significantly declined visual acuity gains compared to the young recipients (0.14 ± 0.68 vs. 0.74 ± 0.49, p = .012). Graft recipients aged over 85 years had a considerably higher graft failure rate over the 24-months (40.7% vs. 4.8%, p = .006) and shorter graft survival time (p = .002; log-rank) when compared to the recipients aged under 70 years. After adjusting for potential confounders such as Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, pseudophakic bullous keratopathy and glaucoma, the recipients aged over 85 remained at higher risk for graft failure (HR = 17.278, 95% CI = 1.787–167.1, p = .014). Conclusions: In aged DMEK recipients, regardless of the low incidence of early postoperative complications, the rate of postoperative graft failure was significantly higher and graft survival shorter than in younger recipients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1466
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Eye Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021


  • Age
  • DMEK
  • elderly population
  • endothelial keratoplasty
  • keratoplasty


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