ORLANDO, Fla. – Patients in the United States who have the cornea-damaging disease keratoconus may soon be able to benefit from a new treatment that is already proving effective in Europe and other parts of the world. The treatment, called collagen crosslinking, improved vision in almost 70 percent of patients treated for keratoconus in a recent three-year clinical trial in Milan, Italy. The treatment is in clinical trials in the United States and is likely to receive FDA approval in 2012. The results of the Milan study are being presented today at the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Orlando, Florida.
In a session titled Long-term Results of Corneal Crosslinking for Keratoconus, Paolo Vinciguerra, MD will describe the treatment and three-year follow up of more than 250 keratoconus patients who received collagen crosslinking at his clinic. Sixty-eight percent of the 500 eyes treated gained significant visual acuity, with their results remaining stable at the end of the follow-up period. Patients over age 18 were most likely to improve.
In the collagen crosslinking procedure, riboflavin (vitamin B) is applied to the cornea, which is then exposed to a specific form of ultraviolet light. Collagen fibers regenerate with new bonds forming between them, increasing corneal stiffness and strength. The treatment also combats the causes of keratoconus, reducing the chance that it will recur. The rest of the eye receives only minimal UV exposure during treatment. Dr. Vinciguerra’s new study confirms that adverse effects are rare. Previous research by his team indicated no loss of corneal endothelial cell, a measurement used to assess the safety of corneal treatments, in patients who received collagen crosslinking.