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Epithelium-off corneal cross-linking surgery compared with standard care in 10- to 16-year-olds with progressive keratoconus: the KERALINK RCT

Larkin, DFP; Chowdhury, K; Doré, CJ; Bunce, C; Burr, JM; Caverly, E; French, L; ... Tuft, SJ; + view all (2021) Epithelium-off corneal cross-linking surgery compared with standard care in 10- to 16-year-olds with progressive keratoconus: the KERALINK RCT. Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation , 8 (15) pp. 1-46. 10.3310/eme08150. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Keratoconus is a disease of the cornea affecting vision that is usually first diagnosed in the first three decades. The abnormality of corneal shape and thickness tends to progress until the patient reaches approximately 30 years of age. Epithelium-off corneal cross-linking is a procedure that has been demonstrated to be effective in randomised trials in adults and observational studies in young patients. // Objectives: The KERALINK trial examined the efficacy and safety of epithelium-off corneal cross-linking, compared with standard care by spectacle or contact lens correction, for stabilisation of progressive keratoconus. // Design: In this observer-masked, randomised, controlled, parallel-group superiority trial, 60 participants aged 10–16 years with progressive keratoconus were randomised; 58 participants completed the study. Progression was defined as a 1.5 D increase in corneal power measured by maximum or mean power (K2) in the steepest corneal meridian in the study eye, measured by corneal tomography. // Setting: Referral clinics in four UK hospitals. // Interventions: Participants were randomised to corneal cross-linking plus standard care or standard care alone, with spectacle or contact lens correction as necessary for vision, and were monitored for 18 months. // Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was K2 in the study eye as a measure of the steepness of the cornea at 18 months post randomisation. Secondary outcomes included keratoconus progression, visual acuity, keratoconus apex corneal thickness and quality of life. // Results: Of 60 participants, 30 were randomised to the corneal cross-linking and standard-care groups. Of these, 30 patients in the corneal cross-linking group and 28 patients in the standard-care group were analysed. The mean (standard deviation) K2 in the study eye at 18 months post randomisation was 49.7 D (3.8 D) in the corneal cross-linking group and 53.4 D (5.8 D) in the standard-care group. The adjusted mean difference in K2 in the study eye was –3.0 D (95% confidence interval –4.93 D to –1.08 D; p = 0.002), favouring corneal cross-linking. Uncorrected and corrected differences in logMAR vision at 18 months were better in eyes receiving corneal cross-linking: –0.31 (95% confidence interval –0.50 to –0.11; p = 0.002) and –0.30 (95% confidence interval –0.48 to –0.11; p = 0.002). Keratoconus progression in the study eye occurred in two patients (7%) randomised to corneal cross-linking compared with 12 (43%) patients randomised to standard care. The unadjusted odds ratio suggests that, on average, patients in the corneal cross-linking group had 90% (odds ratio 0.1, 95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.48; p = 0.004) lower odds of experiencing progression than those receiving standard care. Quality-of-life outcomes were similar in both groups. No adverse events were attributable to corneal cross-linking. // Limitations: Measurements of K2 in those eyes with the most significant progression were in some cases indicated as suspect by corneal topography device software. // Conclusions: Corneal cross-linking arrests progression of keratoconus in the great majority of young patients. These data support a consideration of a change in practice, such that corneal cross-linking could be considered as first-line treatment in progressive disease. If the arrest of keratoconus progression induced by corneal cross-linking is sustained in longer follow-up, there may be particular benefit in avoiding the later requirement for contact lens wear or corneal transplantation. However, keratoconus does not continue to progress in all patients receiving standard care. For future work, the most important questions to be answered are whether or not (1) the arrest of keratoconus progression induced by corneal cross-linking is maintained in the long term and (2) the proportion of those receiving standard care who show significant progression increases with time.

Type: Article
Title: Epithelium-off corneal cross-linking surgery compared with standard care in 10- to 16-year-olds with progressive keratoconus: the KERALINK RCT
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3310/eme08150
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3310/eme08150
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2021 Larkin et al. This work was produced by Larkin et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This is an Open Access publication distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 4.0 licence.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Ophthalmology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology > Comprehensive CTU at UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141761
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