PURPOSE: To compare 3-year iontophoretic transepithelial corneal cross-linking (I-ON CXL) outcomes with epithelium-off collagen cross-linking (epi-off CXL) in pediatric patients.
METHODS: Forty eyes of 28 consecutive pediatric patients [mean age 14.3 ± 2.5 (SD) years; range, 9-18 years] with keratoconus were evaluated. Twenty eyes of 15 patients underwent I-ON and 20 eyes of 13 patients epi-off CXL. Mean corrected distance visual acuity, spherical equivalent, maximum keratometry (Kmax), posterior elevation of the thinnest point, and thickness of the thinnest point were evaluated. The Student t test was used to compare baseline and postoperative data. Keratoconus progression as a function of preoperative Kmax and cone location was evaluated.
RESULTS: At 36 months, corrected distance visual acuity statistically improved (from 0.18 ± 0.1 to 0.10 ± 0.1 logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution) in epi-off CXL, whereas spherical equivalent and posterior elevation of the thinnest point did not significantly change. Mean Kmax increased from the baseline +0.8 diopters (D) in epi-off and +2.9D in I-ON. In both groups, the thinnest point decreased. Keratoconus progression, defined by an increase of Kmax reading of the anterior corneal surface of at least 1.00D, occurred in 25% of epi-off and 50% of I-ON CXL over the 3-year period. Kmax value in I-ON, and cone location in both groups, seemed to be factors influencing the disease progression.
CONCLUSIONS: In pediatric patients, 3 years after treatment, epi-off CXL halted keratoconus progression in 75% of eyes, whereas I-ON CXL seemed to slow down keratoconus progression in 50% of eyes, mainly in those with highest Kmax and paracentral cone.