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Karim Mohamed-Noriega, Andri K. Riau, Nyein C. Lwin, Shyam S. Chaurasia, Donald T. Tan, Jodhbir S. Mehta; Early Corneal Nerve Damage and Recovery Following Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE) and Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(3):1823-1834. doi: 10.1167/iovs.13-13324.
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We compared early corneal nerve changes after small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE) and laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
A total of 12 rabbits underwent LASIK in one eye and SMILE in the fellow eye. Baseline and follow-up evaluations at 1, 2, and 4 weeks postoperatively were performed with in vivo confocal microscopy to evaluate 5 different areas within the treated zone: center, superior, inferior, nasal, and temporal. Cryosections of the corneas and whole mount of the extracted SMILE lenticules were analyzed with immunostaining of βIII-tubulin.
One week after SMILE and LASIK, a decrease in nerve length and density was observed in all evaluated areas. A trend toward greater subbasal nerve length and density (SLD), more eyes with subbasal nerves (ESN), more eyes with subbasal nerves longer than 200 μm (SNL), and higher mean number of subbasal nerves by frame (NSN) in SMILE than in LASIK groups was observed at subsequent follow-up time points. Only the SMILE group showed a recovery of SLD, ESN, and NSN by week 4 (P > 0.05). A trend toward more eyes with sprouting subbasal nerves and greater mean number of sprouting nerves was observed in LASIK than in SMILE, indicating that more subbasal nerves were disrupted and undergoing regeneration after LASIK. Immunostaining at postoperative week 4 revealed a faster stromal nerve recovery in post-SMILE eyes compared to post-LASIK eyes.
Our findings suggest that SMILE results in less nerve damage and faster nerve recovery than LASIK.
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