To report the donor endothelial cell loss in the first year after Descemet's stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) for the treatment of endothelial dysfunction. Prospective noncomparative interventional case series. Eighty eyes of 78 patients with corneal edema. Eighty eyes with endothelial failure were entered into a prospective study of endothelial keratoplasty (EK). The donor central endothelial cell density (ECD) was recorded postoperatively at 6 months (n = 80) and 12 months (n = 80) and then compared with the preoperative eye bank measurements. The subsets of eyes with the donor prepared manually (DSEK; n = 19) and the donor prepared with a microkeratome (Descemet's stripping automated EK [DSAEK]; n = 61) were also evaluated and compared. Preoperative and postoperative central ECDs were prospectively evaluated and the cell loss calculated for each postoperative time point. The average and standard deviation ECD at 6 months was 1908+/-354 cells/mm(2), representing a mean cell loss from preoperative donor cell measurements of 34+/-12%. At 12 months, ECD was 1856+/-371 cells/mm(2) (35+/-13% cell loss). The 1% additional cell loss from 6 to 12 months was not significant (P = 0.233). In the subset of DSEK eyes (n = 19), the cell loss from preoperatively to 6 months was 34%, and at 12 months it was 39%. In the subset of DSAEK eyes (n = 61), the cell loss from preoperatively to 6 months was 34%, and at 12 months it was 34%. There was no statistical difference between the cell loss from DSEK and that from DSAEK at 6 months (P = 0.884) or at 12 months (P = 0.224). Descemet's stripping EK using our surgical technique has a mean donor endothelial cell loss of 34% at the 6-month postoperative examination, and this average cell loss remains relatively stable up to at least 1 year. We found no difference in cell loss between the DSEK and DSAEK techniques over this 1-year postoperative period.

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