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J Nippon Med Sch. 2005 Feb;72(1):4-12.

Free radical development in phacoemulsification cataract surgery.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Nippon Medical School, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8603, Japan.


Phacoemulsification and aspiration (PEA) has become the most popular cataract surgery, due to the establishment of safe surgical techniques and development of associated instruments. However, corneal endothelial damage still represents a serious complication, as excessive damage can lead to irreversible bullous keratopathy. In addition to causes such as mechanical or heat injuries, free radical formation due to ultrasound has been posited as another cause of corneal endothelium damage in PEA. Ultrasound in aqueous solution induces cavitation, directly causing water molecule disintegration and resulting in the formation of hydroxylradicals, the most potent of the reactive oxygen species. Considering the oxidative insult to endothelial cells caused by free radicals, their presence in the anterior chamber may represent one of the most harmful factors during these procedures. Indeed, some researchers have recently started to evaluate PEA from the perspective of oxidative stress. Conversely, the major ingredient in ophthalmic viscosurgical devices (OVDs), which are indispensable for maintaining the anterior chamber in PEA surgery, is sodium hyaluronate, a known free radical scavenger. OVDs can thus be expected to provide some anti-free radical effect during PEA procedures. In addition, since commercially available OVDs display different properties regarding retention in the anterior chamber during PEA, the anti-free radical effect of OVDs is likely to depend on behavior during irrigation and aspiration. The present study followed standard PEA procedures in an eye model and measured hydroxylradicals in the anterior chamber using electron spin resonance. The kinetics of free radical intensity and effects of several OVDs during clinical PEA were also demonstrated. These studies may be of significance in re-evaluating OVDs as a chemical protectant for corneal endothelium, since the OVD has thus far only been regarded as a physical barrier. In addition, many reports about corneal endothelium damage during PEA have been published, but objective evaluation of various damaging factors has been difficult. The present assay of free radicals in a simulation of clinical PEA offers the first method to quantitatively assess stress on the corneal endothelium.

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