Objective: To evaluate the inflammatory response and its potential role in the early stages of corneal wound healing after excimer laser keratectomy. Materials and Methods: Lewis rats underwent excimer keratectomy using a 193- nm excimer laser. The central corneas were ablated in 3 depths: group A, epithelium; group B, superficial stroma; or group C, deep stroma. Eyes were harvested 1, 12, 24, and 36 hours, and 1 week after the rats were killed. Immunohistochemistry was used to test frozen sections with monoclonal antibodies of various inflammatory cellular markers. Results: Reepithelialization was observed at 12 hours in group A, and at 24 hours in groups B and C. Regenerated epithelium covered the denuded corneal surface in groups B and C after 1 week. The expression of major histocompatibility complex II antigen was detected in infiltrating cells, corneal epithelial cells, and endothelial cells 1 hour after surgery. Only a few macrophages and Langerhans cells were in the limbus at baseline. Macrophages migrated from the limbus to the corneal ablation zone and increased 2-fold after 36 hours in all 3 groups compared with baseline. Occasional lymphocytic infiltration was identified after 25 to 36 hours. Conclusion: Macrophages play an active role in the wound healing after laser keratectomy and may contribute to transient corneal haze.
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