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Clinical Sciences |

A Contact Lens as an Artificial Cornea for Improved Visualization During Practice Surgery on Cadaver Eyes FREE

Thomas D. Lenart, MD, PhD; Colin A. McCannel, MD; Keith H. Baratz, MD; Dennis M. Robertson, MD
[+] Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr Lenart is now with Childrens Eye Doctors, Redmond, Wash.


Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121(1):16-19. doi:10.1001/archopht.121.1.16.
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Published online

Objective  To describe the use of a polymethylmethacrylate contact lens as an artificial cornea to enhance visualization for practice surgery using cadaver eyes.

Design  The opaque cornea of a cadaver eye is removed by trephination. Cyanoacrylate glue is used to secure a large-diameter polymethylmethacrylate contact lens to the corneal rim.

Results  Excellent visualization for practice surgery is achieved with this technique. The adhesion of the contact lens to the cadaver eye maintains the anterior chamber sufficiently to perform phacoemulsification cataract extraction or pars plana vitrectomy.

Conclusions  This technique improves visualization of the intraocular structures during practice surgery, thereby enhancing the ability of the learning surgeon to perform and practice delicate surgical maneuvers. The procedure is simple, effective, and inexpensive.

Figures in this Article

PRACTICE SURGERY using human cadaver eyes can be of benefit to the learning surgeon. However, corneal edema, which is often present in cadaver eyes, impairs visualization of the intraocular structures. Although the corneal epithelium can be removed to improve visualization, clarity usually remains compromised owing to stromal edema (Figure 1).For practicing delicate microsurgical intraocular techniques, such as continuous curvilinear capsulorrhexis, 1 phacoemulsification, and pars plana vitrectomy, a clear intraocular view is essential.

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Figure 1.

Cloudy, edematous cadaver cornea after corneal and limbal epithelia have been removed.

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Corneal edema may be partially overcome by the application of topical glycerin or by using the cadaver eyes as soon as possible after death and enucleation. Other techniques that have been reported to enhance visualization include the use of (1) sutured temporary keratoprostheses, 24 (2) intraocular high-molecular-weight osmotic solutions5 combined with tissue fixatives, 6 and (3) contact lenses as artificial corneas.7,8 Strategies to avoid the problems associated with cadaver eyes include the use of live rabbits, 9 synthetic model eyes, 10,11 and computer-simulated eye surgery.12

We describe a simple, time-efficient technique using a polymethylmethacrylate(PMMA) contact lens as an artificial cornea in cadaver eyes to provide good visualization of intraocular structures during practice surgery.

Autopsied eyes that are not suitable for organ donation are available for practice surgery and research purposes and can be obtained through eye banks. Human tissue is used for this model, thus, universal fluid precautions to prevent the possible transmission of disease were used for all described techniques. The eye is prepared by wrapping it in 5 × 5-cm gauze pads and placing it in the mounting well of a 2-piece synthetic head8 designed for practice eye surgery. Conjunctival tissue and the Tenon capsule are removed from the part of the eye that remains exposed. The epithelium is then scraped from the cornea and limbus. For cataract surgery, a scleral tunnel and a paracentesis port are created. A 7.5-mm central corneal button is then excised using a trephine. The iris is removed in total through the corneal opening created by the trephine. A large-diameter (9.0- to 9.5-mm), rigid PMMA contact lens is centered over the circular wound. A glue applicator rod, fashioned from 16-gauge wire bent at a 270° to 360° angle 3 mm from the tip (Figure 2), is used to place a small spot of cyanoacrylate glue at 4 points to stabilize the PMMA lens (Figure 3). Next, a continuous, watertight seal is achieved by applying additional glue along the perimeter of the contact lens at the contact lens–ocular interface (Figure 4). Polymerization of the glue is facilitated by applying a brisk stream of balanced salt solution or isotonic sodium chloride solution forcefully onto the center of the lens and allowing it to flow peripherally over the glue. The outwardly directed flow prevents the glue from spreading onto the central portion of the contact lens, which can cause problems with visualization. A conditioning solution for rigid contact lenses serves as a wetting agent that can be used throughout the surgical procedure to provide a smooth optical surface, thereby achieving excellent visualization of intraocular structures.

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Figure 2.

A glue applicator rod fashioned from 16-gauge wire and a tuberculin syringe.

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Figure 3.

The cadaver cornea has been trephined, and the central button has been removed. A polymethylmethacrylate contact lens (artificial cornea) has been placed over the corneal remnant and fixated at 4 points (arrows). An air bubble is visible in the anterior chamber.

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Figure 4.

A complete watertight seal is achieved between the contact lens and the corneoscleral rim. A continuous curvilinear capsulorrhexis is viewed through the artificial cornea. The ring of dried cyanoacrylate glue is seen anterior to the limbus.

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In addition to cataract surgery, 3-port pars plana vitrectomy can be accomplished using this model. After exposing the sclera and removing the corneal and limbal epithelium, 3 sclerotomies are made 3.5-mm posterior to the limbus, and an infusion cannula is secured in one of the ports. The ports are temporarily closed with scleral plugs. The infusion tubing is clamped, and a central corneal button is removed by trephination. After securing the PMMA lens, as described previously, vitrectomy techniques, including endolaser photocoagulation, can be performed either with the crystalline lens in situ or subsequent to removing it by phacoemulsification or pars plana lensectomy(Figure 5). Alternatively, the lens and iris may first be removed through the corneal opening created by the trephine to provide wide-angle viewing of the posterior segment. Viscoelastic solution or methylcellulose solution can be used to optically couple a fundus lens to the surface of the PMMA artificial cornea for optimal viewing of the posterior pole.

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Figure 5.

A, Pars plana vitrectomy setup as viewed through a contact lens floating on the artificial cornea. The infusion cannula is secured (bottom right). Light from the light pipe (bottom left) and the suction cutter (top right) is easily seen through the lens system. B, View of the endolaser photocoagulation probe and photocoagulation marks on the retina as viewed through the vitrectomy contact lens and artificial cornea. The photographs were reproduced from video images.

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Once all of the practice procedures are completed, the PMMA contact lens can be removed, cleaned by scraping with a sharp blade, and reused on additional eyes.

Replacing the opacified, edematous corneas of cadaver eyes with PMMA contact lenses consistently resulted in excellent visualization of intraocular structures during practice surgery. The optical clarity achieved with this technique facilitates visualization of intraocular structures. As a result, the performance of delicate and difficult microsurgical maneuvers, such as capsulorrhexis (Figure 4), phacoemulsification, and intraocular lens implantation, can be practiced more effectively. The adhesion of the contact lens is sufficient to provide a watertight seal at the intraocular pressures encountered during phacoemulsification or pars plana vitrectomy. If excessive forces are applied or if the eye is substantially distorted during the procedure, the glue seal can be disrupted and leaks will occur along the perimeter of the contact lens–limbal interface. This can be remedied by applying additional glue to the leakage site(s) to reachieve a watertight seal. Once mastered, preparing the eye and gluing the contact lens in place adds only 5 to 7 minutes to the procedure time. Pars plana vitrectomy and endolaser photocoagulation (Figure 5)can be practiced on the same eye after phacoemulsification has been performed. One PMMA lens can be used on multiple eyes without difficulty after the glue is scraped off or removed with nail polish remover.

Using a PMMA contact lens as an artificial cornea on cadaver eyes improves visualization of intraocular structures during practice surgery and closely simulates intraocular surgery in patients. This method may be used for performing and practicing delicate and difficult microsurgical maneuvers such as capsulorrhexis, phacoemulsification, and posterior segment surgery. Anterior and posterior procedures may be completed on the same postmortem eye. Furthermore, each training session can be concluded by reattaching the corneal button to the cadaver eye to practice keratoplasty suturing techniques.

Other practice surgery teaching systems for anterior or posterior segment surgery reported in the literature include temporary keratoprostheses, 24 the intraocular injection of high-molecular-weight osmotic material5 and tissue fixatives, 6 live animals, 9 model eyes, 10,11 and computer-simulated eye surgery.12 A temporary intraoperative keratoprosthesis, such as the design described by Eckardt and Eckardt, 2 although effective in providing clear visualization of intraocular microanatomy, is expensive (up to $250 per keratoprosthesis). Also, each keratoprosthesis is likely to have a limited useful lifetime in a microsurgical laboratory. The use of intraocular high-molecular-weight osmotic material4 with tissue preservatives, 5 despite an initially clear cornea, has the disadvantage of rehydrating with time so that visualization becomes increasingly compromised as the case progresses.2 Furthermore, anterior segment tissues exposed to the fixatives may have an altered consistency that modifies the tissue response during surgical manipulation.

Our technique may be accomplished with minimal expense. Polymethylmethacrylate contact lenses not suitable for sale to the public may be used, and they can be obtained at no cost from contact lens distributors. Once the artificial cornea is in place, excellent visualization is maintained throughout the practice session by using a standard contact lens wetting agent. Because the intraocular tissues are not exposed to fixatives, they optimally mimic the feel of a living human eye. The glue seal will break if excessive pressure or torque is applied to the globe, and once the learning surgeon is more experienced and skilled, the entire procedure can often be performed without reapplying glue. However, the torque-sensitive seal requires the learning surgeon to handle the eye gently during practice surgery.

Since presentation of this technique at the 1997 American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, articles have been published by Rootman and Marcovich7 and Castellano and colleagues8 discussing similar techniques. These researchers also found that using an artificial cornea with cadaver eyes was useful in teaching beginning eye surgeons delicate and difficult intraocular surgical maneuvers. However, our observations and conclusions, which were arrived at independently, have expanded on the techniques described in their articles to include (1) use of contact lens conditioning solution on the PMMA artificial cornea throughout the procedure to maintain superior visualization of intraocular structures compared with a dry contact lens, (2) use of centrifugally applied balanced salt solution to quickly polymerize ("dry") the glue without waiting time, and (3) use of the teaching model for practice of pars plana vitrectomy and endolaser photocoagulation.

During the past 4 years, the described technique has been successfully used in the ophthalmic surgery practice laboratory at Mayo Clinic.

Corresponding author and reprints: Colin A. McCannel, MD, Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905.

Submitted for publication March 5, 2002; final revision received August 2, 2002; accepted September 3, 2002.

This study was supported by Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY, and Mayo Foundation, Rochester.

This study was presented as a poster at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting, San Francisco, Calif, October 28-29, 1997.

Neuhann  T Theorie and operationstechnik der kapsulorhexis. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd. 1987;190542- 545
Link to Article
Eckardt  UEckardt  C Keratoprosthesis as an aid to learning surgical techniques on cadaver eyes. Ophthalmic Surg. 1995;26358- 359
Borirak-chanyanvat  SLindquist  TDKaplan  HJ A cadaveric eye model for practicing anterior and posterior segment surgeries. Ophthalmology. 1995;1021932- 1935
Link to Article
Oram  OGross  RLSeverin  TD  et al.  A human cadaver eye model for anterior and posterior segment laser application. Ophthalmic Surg. 1994;25449- 451
Swinger  CAKornmehl  EW Dehydration of post-mortem eyes for practice and experimental surgery. Ophthalmic Surg. 1985;16182- 183
Auffarth  GUWesendahl  TASolomon  KD  et al.  A modified preparation technique for closed-system ocular surgery of human eyes obtained postmortem: an improved research and training tool. Ophthalmology. 1996;103977- 982
Link to Article
Rootman  DSMarcovich  A Utilizing eye bank eyes and keratoplasty techniques to teach phacoemulsification. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers. 1997;28957- 960
Castellano  DSparaul  JWhitaker  TE A simple, cost-effective method for practicing phacoemulsification in the cadaveric eye. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers. 1998;29253- 256
Abrams  GWTopping  TMachemer  R An improved method for practice vitrectomy. Arch Ophthalmol. 1978;96521- 525
Link to Article
Maloney  WFHall  DParkinson  DB Synthetic cataract teaching system for phacoemulsification. J Cataract Refract Surg. 1988;14218- 221
Link to Article
Weidenthal  DT The use of a model eye to gain endophotocoagulation skills [letter]. Arch Ophthalmol. 1987;1051020
Link to Article
Sinclair  MJPeifer  JWHaleblian  RLuxenberg  MNGreen  KHull  DS Computer-simulated eye surgery: a novel teaching method for residents and practitioners. Ophthalmology. 1995;102517- 521
Link to Article

Figures

Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure 1.

Cloudy, edematous cadaver cornea after corneal and limbal epithelia have been removed.

Graphic Jump Location
Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure 2.

A glue applicator rod fashioned from 16-gauge wire and a tuberculin syringe.

Graphic Jump Location
Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure 3.

The cadaver cornea has been trephined, and the central button has been removed. A polymethylmethacrylate contact lens (artificial cornea) has been placed over the corneal remnant and fixated at 4 points (arrows). An air bubble is visible in the anterior chamber.

Graphic Jump Location
Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure 4.

A complete watertight seal is achieved between the contact lens and the corneoscleral rim. A continuous curvilinear capsulorrhexis is viewed through the artificial cornea. The ring of dried cyanoacrylate glue is seen anterior to the limbus.

Graphic Jump Location
Place holder to copy figure label and caption
Figure 5.

A, Pars plana vitrectomy setup as viewed through a contact lens floating on the artificial cornea. The infusion cannula is secured (bottom right). Light from the light pipe (bottom left) and the suction cutter (top right) is easily seen through the lens system. B, View of the endolaser photocoagulation probe and photocoagulation marks on the retina as viewed through the vitrectomy contact lens and artificial cornea. The photographs were reproduced from video images.

Graphic Jump Location

Tables

References

Neuhann  T Theorie and operationstechnik der kapsulorhexis. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd. 1987;190542- 545
Link to Article
Eckardt  UEckardt  C Keratoprosthesis as an aid to learning surgical techniques on cadaver eyes. Ophthalmic Surg. 1995;26358- 359
Borirak-chanyanvat  SLindquist  TDKaplan  HJ A cadaveric eye model for practicing anterior and posterior segment surgeries. Ophthalmology. 1995;1021932- 1935
Link to Article
Oram  OGross  RLSeverin  TD  et al.  A human cadaver eye model for anterior and posterior segment laser application. Ophthalmic Surg. 1994;25449- 451
Swinger  CAKornmehl  EW Dehydration of post-mortem eyes for practice and experimental surgery. Ophthalmic Surg. 1985;16182- 183
Auffarth  GUWesendahl  TASolomon  KD  et al.  A modified preparation technique for closed-system ocular surgery of human eyes obtained postmortem: an improved research and training tool. Ophthalmology. 1996;103977- 982
Link to Article
Rootman  DSMarcovich  A Utilizing eye bank eyes and keratoplasty techniques to teach phacoemulsification. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers. 1997;28957- 960
Castellano  DSparaul  JWhitaker  TE A simple, cost-effective method for practicing phacoemulsification in the cadaveric eye. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers. 1998;29253- 256
Abrams  GWTopping  TMachemer  R An improved method for practice vitrectomy. Arch Ophthalmol. 1978;96521- 525
Link to Article
Maloney  WFHall  DParkinson  DB Synthetic cataract teaching system for phacoemulsification. J Cataract Refract Surg. 1988;14218- 221
Link to Article
Weidenthal  DT The use of a model eye to gain endophotocoagulation skills [letter]. Arch Ophthalmol. 1987;1051020
Link to Article
Sinclair  MJPeifer  JWHaleblian  RLuxenberg  MNGreen  KHull  DS Computer-simulated eye surgery: a novel teaching method for residents and practitioners. Ophthalmology. 1995;102517- 521
Link to Article

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