Observation of topical tacrolimus on high-risk penetrating keratoplasty patients: a randomized clinical trial study



To evaluate the clinical efficacy of topical tacrolimus 0.1% and cyclosporine 1% on high-risk penetrating keratoplasty (PKP) patients.


A series of 49 high-risk PKP patients (49 eyes), 20 males, 29 females from the age of 4 months to 74 years of age with the mean of 32.5 from 2012 to 2017 were recruited in this study. The patients were randomly divided into two groups by receiving either topical tacrolimus 0.1% or cyclosporine 1% respectively. Twenty five patients were treated with topical tacrolimus 0.1% and 24 patients with topical cyclosporine 1%. The traditional baseline management on these two groups were Tobramycin and Dexamethasone eye drops in the first 3 weeks and then tapered off. Clinical procedures and postoperative follow-up were documented.


After 6–54 months follow-up, with the average of 24 months, 11 of 24 high-risk patients (11 eyes) had graft rejection, the rejection rate was 45.8% in topical cyclosporine 1% group. The rejections occurred from 35 days to 20 months after PKP. Three patients had irreversible rejection. On topical tacrolimus 0.1% group, the rejection occurred in four patients (four eyes) with rejection rate of 16%, and no irreversible rejection was observed. The graft rejection episodes were documented between 23 days and 24 months. As compared with the topical cyclosporine 1%, topical tacrolimus 0.1%, a key immunosuppressant, significantly decreased corneal graft rejection rate (p = 0.02).


Topical tacrolimus 01% on high-risk PKP patients significantly prevented corneal graft rejection, and it had less adverse effects and was very safe to high-risk patients as to topical cyclosporine 1%. Further case controlled randomized clinical trial studies are needed to establish the best management option for these high-risk patients.

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This work was supported by the Bureau of Hebei Science Technology [grant number 182777112D], Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China.

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Correspondence to Xiao-Rong Zhang.

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Zhai, L., Zhang, X., Liu, H. et al. Observation of topical tacrolimus on high-risk penetrating keratoplasty patients: a randomized clinical trial study. Eye (2019) doi:10.1038/s41433-019-0717-3

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