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Case Reports and Small Case Series
June 1999

Foreign Body Entrapment in Radial Keratotomy Incisions

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(6):836-837. doi:

Radial keratotomy (RK) incisions may gape in response to external trauma, allowing small or particulate foreign bodies to become embedded within.

Report of a Case.

A 41-year-old man had successful bilateral 8-incision RKs done elsewhere in 1992, resulting in 20/20 OU uncorrected visual acuity. As he was trimming a bush in September 1998, a branch (Figure 1) struck him in the right eye. There was immediate pain, blurriness, and tearing. He was seen immediately at a local hospital emergency department by an ophthalmologist and was referred to our cornea clinic for further treatment.

Figure 1. 
Broken branch responsible for eye injury.

Broken branch responsible for eye injury.

At presentation to our clinic, his uncorrected visual acuity was 20/70 OD and 20/20 OS. Manifest refraction in the right eye improved the visual acuity to 20/50 with a +0.75+1.00×135 correction. Dark brown particles of what appeared to be wood bark were wedged in the anterior corneal stroma in the nasal, inferonasal, and inferior RK incisions (Figure 2). The anterior lips of these incisions were splayed open by a combination of the foreign bodies, reactive inflammation, and secondary corneal edema. In addition, there was a partial-thickness, paracentral corneal laceration perpendicular to and crossing the 3 injured RK incisions. Findings from the Seidel test were negative. The rest of the anterior segment, including the crystalline lens, was normal. A dilated retinal examination revealed no intraocular foreign bodies or retinal pathologic condition.

Figure 2. 
Wood foreign bodies lodged in three consecutive radial keratotomy incisions (direct slit-beam illumination).

Wood foreign bodies lodged in three consecutive radial keratotomy incisions (direct slit-beam illumination).

Under retrobulbar anesthesia, the foreign bodies were easily swept out of the RK incisions with a Barraquer iris sweep and were sent for microbiological cultures. The 3 RK incisions, together with the anterior stromal laceration, were copiously irrigated with balanced-salt solution. A subconjunctival injection of cephalosporin was administered and a 1-week course of topical ofloxacin, 4 times daily, was begun.

The uncorrected visual acuity improved to 20/30 OD within 1 week. After 5 weeks, the RK incisions and the paracentral laceration appeared to be healing well, with only mild anterior stromal scarring and mild residual fluorescein pooling over the injured incisions. The uncorrected visual acuity remained 20/30 OD. The cycloplegic refraction was -0.25+0.25×30 OD, giving a corrected visual acuity of 20/25 OD. The cultures were negative for organisms.


Many studies have previously shown delayed wound healing in RK wounds.1-5 The failure of RK incisions to regain full preoperative tensile strength has been responsible for complications ranging from unstable or progressive refractive changes to traumatic rupture of the globe. Radial keratotomy incisions frequently open spontaneously during penetrating keratoplasty, even as late as 9 years after the original surgery.5 Full-thickness corneal perforation through a preexisting RK incision by a wooden foreign body has been previously reported in the military literature.6 In that case, the injured eye had undergone a 3-step, 24-incision RK 1 year previously. Our patient had considerably fewer incisions and was already 6 years from the time of RK surgery. Unsutured wounds typically have a plug of epithelial cells that may persist for years, thus weakening the structural integrity of the stroma. Even in the absence of epithelial plugs, well-healed stromal scars have less than 70% of native tensile strength.1-4 Consequently, RK wounds appear to be susceptible to entry or entrapment of particulate foreign matter.

Reprints: H. Kaz Soong, MD, W. K. Kellogg Eye Center, 1000 Wall St, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.

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