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Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2005 Aug;16(4):241-5.

Cataract surgery in Fuchs' dystrophy.

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  • 1Department of Cornea, External Diseases, and Uveitis, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Maryland 21215, USA.



Corneal decompensation after cataract surgery can occur in patients with Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy. This paper reviews the pathogenesis of corneal edema in Fuchs' dystrophy, the preoperative and perioperative risk factors for corneal endothelial cell loss during cataract surgery, and indications for cataract surgery alone or cataract surgery combined with keratoplasty for patients with visually significant cataracts and Fuchs' dystrophy.


Accelerated loss of corneal endothelial cells in Fuchs' dystrophy is multifactorial, with apoptosis and altered gene regulation of aquaporin proteins playing a role. Preoperative factors contributing to decreased endothelial cell count include age, sex, diabetes, a history of ocular trauma or inflammation, and contact lens wear. Intra-operative measures shown to protect endothelial cells include the use of the soft-shell viscoelastic technique for very dense cataracts, efficient cataract removal techniques (phaco-chop, use of oscillatory handpiece), and surgery by an experienced surgeon. A triple procedure should be performed with preoperative corneal epithelial decompensation and considered with preoperative pachymetry greater than 640 mum. Otherwise, it is reasonable to attempt cataract surgery alone with proper patient education.


Fuchs' dystrophy is a progressive disorder. Cataract surgery in the setting of Fuchs' dystrophy can be performed successfully, especially when the surgeon is aware of the preoperative and intraoperative factors that affect the number of functioning endothelial cells. All patients should be aware of the progressive nature of this disease and the possibility of keratoplasty at some point in their lifetime.

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