PURPOSE: To investigate comparative stiffness values in porcine corneas after standard cross-linking and a new, rapid method of cross-linking (flash-linking) using surface wave elastometry. METHODS: Ten porcine eyes were treated using an ultraviolet A (UVA) double diode light source with a wavelength of 370 nm and delivering an irradiance of 4.2 mW/cm2 at a distance of 1.2 cm while applying 0.1% riboflavin-5-phosphate drops to the central cornea every 5 minutes as a photosensitizer for 30 minutes (riboflavin-UVA group). The next 10 porcine corneas were treated with a single application of a customized photoactive cross-linking agent and 30 seconds of UVA light at the same power and wavelength (flash-linking group). Following treatment, the Sonic Eye system (PriaVision Inc) was used to measure ultrasound surface wave propagation time between two fixed-distance transducers applied to the cornea along central horizontal and vertical positions. Intraocular pressure was continuously monitored. RESULTS: Mean surface wave velocity was determined from the last 5 of 10 sequential measurements for each eye, and was 90.87±15.26 m/s for all eyes with a mean standard deviation (SD) of 2.34 m/s among each eye in the riboflavin-UVA group versus 83.66±12.30 m/s with a mean SD of 2.69 m/s among each eye in the flash-linking group before treatment and 109.2±21.76 m/s with a mean SD of 2.15 m/s among each eye (riboflavin-UVA group) versus 109.2±18.42 m/s with a mean SD of 2.26 m/s among each eye (flash-linking group) after cross-linking. The mean surface wave velocity increased by 18.3 units from 90.87 to 109.2 m/s (P=.003) after cross-linking with riboflavin-UVA, and by 25.5 m/s from 83.66 to 109.2 m/s (P=.0001) after flash-linking. Surface wave velocity was noted to increase after both cross-linking techniques, but the differences observed did not reach statistical significance (P=.74). CONCLUSIONS: A new, rapid method of cross-linking (flash-linking) is introduced by the use of a customized photoactive cross-linking agent. The method demonstrates similar efficacy in stiffening the cornea (when measured with surface wave elastometry) in comparison to standard cross-linking, but requires only 30 seconds of UVA exposure.
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