Penetrating Keratoplasty for Keratoconus – Excimer Versus Femtosecond Laser Trephination

Berthold Seitz1, *, Achim Langenbucher2, Tobias Hager1, Edgar Janunts2, Moatasem El-Husseiny1, Nora Szentmáry1
1 Department of Ophthalmology, Saarland University Medical Center UKS, Homburg/Saar, Germany
2 Institute of Experimental Ophthalmology, University of Saarland, Homburg/Saar, Germany

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© 2017 Seitz et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Ophthalmology, Saarland University Medical Center UKS, Kirrbergerstrasse 100, Building 22, D-66421 Homburg Saar, Germany; Tel: +49 (0)6841-162-2388; Fax: +49 (0)6841-162-2400; E-mail:; Website:



In case of keratoconus, rigid gas-permeable contact lenses as the correction method of first choice allow for a good visual acuity for quite some time. In a severe stage of the disease with major cone-shaped protrusion of the cornea, even specially designed keratoconus contact lenses are no more tolerated. In case of existing contraindications for intrastromal ring segments, corneal transplantation typically has a very good prognosis.


In case of advanced keratoconus – especially after corneal hydrops due to rupture of Descemet’s membrane – penetrating keratoplasty (PKP) still is the surgical method of first choice. Noncontact excimer laser trephination seems to be especially beneficial for eyes with iatrogenic keratectasia after LASIK and those with repeat grafts in case of “keratoconus recurrences” due to small grafts with thin host cornea. For donor trephination from the epithelial side, an artificial chamber is used. Wound closure is achieved with a double running cross-stitch suture according to Hoffmann. Graft size is adapted individually depending on corneal size („as large as possible – as small as necessary“). Limbal centration will be preferred intraoperatively due to optical displacement of the pupil. During the last 10 years femtosecond laser trephination has been introduced from the USA as a potentially advantageous approach.


Prospective clinical studies have shown that the technique of non-contact excimer laser PKP improves donor and recipient centration, reduces “vertical tilt” and “horizontal torsion” of the graft in the recipient bed, thus resulting in significantly less “all-sutures-out” keratometric astigmatism (2.8 vs. 5.7 D), higher regularity of the topography (SRI 0.80 vs. 0.98) and better visual acuity (0.80 vs. 0.63) in contrast to the motor trephine. The stage of the disease does not influence functional outcome after excimer laser PKP. Refractive outcomes of femtosecond laser keratoplasty, however, resemble that of the motor trephine.


In contrast to the undisputed clinical advantages of excimer laser keratoplasty with orientation teeth/notches in keratoconus, the major disadvantage of femtosecond laser application is still the necessity of suction and applanation of the cone during trephination with intraoperative pitfalls and high postoperative astigmatism.

Keywords: Keratoconus, Penetrating keratoplasty, PKP, Excimer laser, Femtosecond laser, Trephination, Advantages, Pitfalls.