Clinical Review

Using Optical Coherence Tomography in the Management of Postoperative Wound Leaks After Cataract Surgery

Health care providers who participate in postoperative care of patients who have had cataract surgery should carefully evaluate for the presence of wound leak or wound gape as a potential complication.

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The term cataract is derived from the Latin word “catarractes,” which means “waterfall,” as the foamy white opacity of an advanced cataract can be likened to a tempestuous cascade. Cataract is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide.1,2 It is no surprise, therefore, that cataract surgery is the most frequently performed ophthalmic surgical procedure worldwide. Cataract surgeries may reach 30 million annual cases by 2020.3 Given the large number of surgeries being performed, postsurgical complications are not uncommon.

Early postoperative complications from lens exchange (cataract) surgery include increased intraocular pressure (IOP), corneal edema, and corneal wound leakage.4 Corneal wound leakage is not uncommon; one study showed that, in 100 cases, almost one-third of incisions leaked.5 A 2014 prospective study of 500 postcataract surgery eyes revealed that 48.8% had fluid egress.6 Early detection is important so that efforts to restore corneal integrity can immediately be implemented. If not caught early, patients are at risk for developing a cascade of sequelae, including endophthalmitis.

The majority of corneal wound leaks postphacoemulsification are self-limiting and self-sealing. Moderate wound leaks require treatment, as in the following case. Strategies to detect, image, and treat wound leaks are covered in this discussion.

Case Presentation

A 69-year-old male veteran presented with no complaints for a 1-day postoperative visit following right eye phacoemulsification cataract extraction. His best corrected visual acuity in the right eye was 20/40, and his pinhole visual acuity was 20/25+2. On slit-lamp examination, the temporally located main incision appeared well-adhered and was found to be Seidel negative; however, the inferior paracentesis wound was found to be Seidel positive, demonstrating a slow leak. Intraocular pressure (IOP) measured with tonopen was 9 mm Hg.

A bandage soft contact lens was placed on the eye. The patient was instructed not to rub or place any pressure on the eye and to avoid bending and heavy lifting. He was also instructed to continue his postoperative medications (prednisolone 1% every 2 hours and polymyxin B sulfate 4 times daily) in his right eye. A follow-up appointment was scheduled for the next day.

The patient presented for his postoperative day-2 visit with a best corrected visual acuity in the right eye of 20/20. He reported no visual problems, no eye pain, and mentioned that he had had a comfortable night sleep. A slit-lamp examination revealed trace diffuse injection in the operative eye, predominantly central Descemet membrane folds, 1+ stromal edema, and a Seidel negative main incision wound. However, the inferior paracentesis wound showed a moderate leak (Seidel positive), and the anterior chamber showed a 1+ cell and flare. Goldmann tonometry revealed an IOP of 5 mm Hg, indicating hypotony.

Anterior segment cube 512 x 128 optical coherence tomography (OCT) was obtained with the bandage contact lens (Figures 1 and 2), and then repeated with the bandage contact lens removed (Figures 3 and 4). OCT imaging confirmed epithelial and endothelial gaping, loss of coaptation, and a localized detachment of the Descemet membrane. The veteran was referred to his surgeon that same day, and 2 limbal vicryl sutures were placed. The patient was instructed to continue prednisolone 1% 4 times daily and polymyxin B sulfate every 2 hours; erythromycin ointment 3 times daily was added to his regimen.

He was scheduled for a follow-up examination 1 week later. At that visit, the wound was no longer leaking and IOP had risen to a preoperative value of 17 mm Hg. The corneal sutures were removed at the 1-month postoperative examination and a follow-up was scheduled for 4 months later. An anterior segment OCT was obtained (Figure 5).


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