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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2006 Apr;47(4):1348-51.

Mapping the corneal sub-basal nerve plexus in keratoconus by in vivo laser scanning confocal microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



To produce a two-dimensional reconstruction map of the living corneal sub-basal nerve plexus in keratoconus with in vivo confocal microscopy.


Four eyes of four subjects with keratoconus were examined by slit lamp biomicroscopy, Orbscan II slit-scanning elevation topography (Bausch & Lomb Surgical, Rochester, NY), and laser scanning in vivo confocal microscopy with the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph II, Rostock Corneal Module (Heidelberg Engineering, Heidelberg, Germany). Subjects were asked to fixate on targets arranged in a grid to enable in vivo confocal microscopy of the cornea in a wide range of positions.


A mean of 402 +/- 57 images were obtained for each cornea, to create confluent montages. The mean dimensions of the corneal areas mapped were 6.60 +/- 0.70 mm horizontally and 5.91 +/- 0.72 mm vertically. All corneas exhibited abnormal sub-basal nerve architecture compared with patterns previously observed in normal corneas. At the apex of the cone, a tortuous network of nerve fiber bundles was noted, many of which formed closed loops. At the topographic base of the cone, nerve fiber bundles appeared to follow the contour of the base, with many of the bundles running concentrically in this region. Central sub-basal nerve density was significantly lower in keratoconus corneas (10,478 +/- 2,188 microm/mm2) compared with normal corneas (21,668 +/- 1,411 microm/mm2; Mann-Whitney; P < 0.01).


This is the first study to elucidate the overall distribution of sub-basal nerves in the living central to midperipheral human cornea in keratoconus, using laser scanning in vivo confocal microscopy.

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