Rebubbling and graft failure in Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty: a prospective Dutch registry study

S. Dunker*, B. Winkens, F. van den Biggelaar, R. Nuijts, P.J. Kruit, M. Dickman, Dutch Cornea Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Web of Science)


Aims To identify risk factors for rebubbling, and early graft failure after Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK). Methods In this prospective registry study, all consecutive DMEK procedures registered in the Netherlands Organ Transplant Registry were assessed (n=752). Univariable and multivariable analysis was performed using logistic regression. The effect of rebubbling on endothelial cell density was analysed using a linear mixed model. Results 144 of 752 (19%) eyes underwent rebubbling. Rebubbling was successful in 101 eyes (70%). In eyes that underwent rebubbling, the graft failure rate was significantly higher than eyes that did not undergo rebubbling (30% vs 9%, respectively; OR: 4.28, 95% CI 2.72 to 6.73, p<0.001). In multivariable analysis, independent risk factors for rebubbling were surgical complication (OR: 2.28, 95% CI 1.20 to 4.33, p=0.012) and older recipient age (OR: 1.04 (per increase of 1 year), 95% CI 1.01 to 1.07, p=0.003). Risk factors for developing graft failure within 3 months were transplant before 2016 (OR: 3.32, 95% CI 1.87 to 5.90, p<0.001), and surgical complication (OR: 2.93, 95% CI 1.42 to 6.04, p=0.004). Throughout the study period, rebubbling and early graft failure were inversely related. Eyes that underwent rebubbling showed significantly lower endothelial cell densities at 3, 6 and 12 months compared with eyes that did not undergo rebubbling (all p<0.001). Conclusions This Dutch registry study identified independent risk factors for DMEK graft detachment leading to rebubbling, namely recipient age and surgical complication, and early graft failure, namely transplantation before 2016 and surgical complication. Rebubbling was associated with significantly higher endothelial cell loss in the first year after surgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number1
Early online date17 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • cornea
  • treatment surgery
  • dystrophy

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