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Band Keratopathy Treatment & Management

  • Author: Michael Taravella, MD; Chief Editor: John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc  more...
Updated: Mar 03, 2016

Approach Considerations

Superficial debridement or lamellar keratectomy in band keratopathy is usually effective in restoring normal vision. Various adverse outcomes can result from the procedure, including corneal scarring and vision loss, but the incidence of such complications is very low. Although medical therapy is ineffective in treating band keratopathy, underlying conditions associated with elevated levels of calcium or phosphate should be treated to prevent deposition from recurring.


As noted, excessive vitamin D intake has been associated with band keratopathy, as has milk-alkali syndrome. Excessive absorption and serum elevation of calcium is the consequence of these 2 diet-related problems.


Superficial Debridement and Lamellar Keratectomy

Superficial debridement can be performed in a minor operating room under topical anesthesia. Proparacaine or tetracaine drops can be used for this purpose. Use of an operating microscope is recommended.


Place a lid speculum to hold open the eyelids, and debride the epithelium overlying the calcium with an ophthalmic surgical blade or spatula.

Apply 0.05 mol, 1.5% neutral disodium ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid (EDTA) to the corneal surface, if available. Weck-cel sponges soaked in this solution can be used for this purpose. Alternatively, the solution can be placed in a water bath over the cornea to limit ocular exposure.

Calcium deposits are then removed with firm scraping of the corneal surface with a blunt spatula or a No. 64 or No. 69 Beaver Blade. (A Paton spatula works well.) Often, it is necessary to apply solution, followed by scraping several times to remove the plaque. The primary goal is to clear the visual axis. Thin calcium deposits may come off in 5 minutes, while thick plaques may take 30-45 minutes to dissolve.

Once the deposits have been scraped, an assessment of the smoothness of the underlying stroma can be made. If the surface is very irregular, phototherapeutic keratectomy with an excimer laser can be performed to smooth the surface. Ideally, this procedure is performed in the same setting.

Note that the excimer laser should not be used to remove calcium. Attempting to remove band keratopathy with the excimer laser alone will result in significant irregular astigmatism, since the cornea, not calcium, will be ablated preferentially. The role of the excimer is to polish the surface after the plaque has been removed.[16]

Irrigate the eye thoroughly following the procedure to remove EDTA solution from the conjunctival surface and fornices.

Place a bandage contact lens over the cornea. Alternatively, pressure patching or frequent antibiotic ointment can be used.

More advanced cases, particularly those that invade the Bowman membrane, may require a more extensive lamellar keratectomy technique with retrobulbar anesthesia and operating-room control of the surgical field. These procedures are best accomplished with a Beaver Blade followed by Weck-cel sponge polishing. More extensive polishing of exposed Bowman membrane with a rotating diamond burr may minimize irregular astigmatism after extensive keratectomy. Facilitation of calcium removal with the application of EDTA has been recommended in the past but has fallen from popularity owing to a lack of controlled trials, the absence of extensive case series, and difficulties in obtaining the EDTA from compounding pharmacies.

Extensive keratectomy inevitably creates limbal bleeding, particularly in cases associated with superficial corneal neovascularization or interstitial keratitis. It is important to control this bleeding with pressure or topical vasoconstrictors alone, since cautery application can damage limbal stem cells.

A therapeutic bandage soft contact lens (CTL) is instrumental in recovery following debridement or lamellar keratectomy. The CTL provides significant pain relief, protection from blink disruption of re-epithelialization, and a scaffold for epithelial migration from the limbus.

A sutureless amniotic membrane can be applied to enhance healing, particularly when delayed epithelialization is anticipated, such as in patients with neurotrophic disease, chronic ocular surface inflammation, or advanced age.

Postoperative care

Postoperative care includes the insertion of a bandage contact lens that is left in place until the epithelium heals. Topical nonsteroidal agents are useful for pain control immediately following the procedure and for the first few days afterwards.

An antibiotic drop should be prescribed with the bandage contact lens in place. Use of a topical steroid drop (eg, prednisolone acetate, not prednisolone phosphate) is helpful for comfort and treatment of the inflammation and corneal edema that are often present in the early postprocedure period. These medications can be stopped when the epithelium is healed and the bandage contact lens is removed (usually within the first 1-2 wk).


The main complications related to the removal of calcium deposits on the corneal surface include the following (it is also possible that additional procedures will be needed):

  • Pain
  • Recurrence of the calcium band
  • Corneal scarring
  • Corneal edema
  • Infection
  • Decreased vision or vision loss
  • Persistent or aggravated irregular astigmatism

Occasionally, a mild subepithelial haze can be seen weeks after EDTA chelation. This may resolve on its own. A mild topical steroid (eg, fluorometholone 0.1%) may help to resolve this haze. If there is significant damage to the Bowman membrane, the haze may be permanent.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Michael Taravella, MD Director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery, Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute; Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Michael Taravella, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Eye Bank Association of America

Disclosure: Received none from AMO/VISX for consulting.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc Professor of Ophthalmology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Clinical Director, Thomas R Lee Center for Ocular Pharmacology, Ophthalmology Residency Research Program Director, Eastern Virginia Medical School; President, Virginia Eye Consultants

John D Sheppard, Jr, MD, MMSc is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Uveitis Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Stephen D Plager, MD, FACS Chief, Department of Ophthalmology, Dominican Hospital; Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Stanford University Hospital

Stephen D Plager, MD, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, and California Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Christopher J Rapuano, MD Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University; Director of the Cornea Service, Co-Director of Refractive Surgery Department, Wills Eye Institute

Christopher J Rapuano, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Cornea Society, Eye Bank Association of America, International Society of Refractive Surgery, and Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Allergan Honoraria Speaking and teaching; Allergan Consulting fee Consulting; Alcon Honoraria Speaking and teaching; Inspire Honoraria Speaking and teaching; RPS Ownership interest Other; Vistakon Honoraria Speaking and teaching; EyeGate Pharma Consulting; Inspire Consulting fee Consulting; Bausch & Lomb Honoraria Speaking and teaching; Bausch & Lomb Consulting fee Consulting

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

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Band keratopathy. Note the bandlike whitish-grey lesion across the central corneal surface, most prominent on the exposure surfaces, sparing the superior and inferior cornea, and gaps representing corneal nerves passing through the Bowman membrane.
Calcium deposition associated with the use of dexamethasone phosphate. The calcium plaques appear as elevated white lesions at the edge of a persistent epithelial defect.
Total calcification of the cornea. Deep and superficial layers of the cornea are involved with this process.
The image shown is of a patient who developed a calcium plaque following a corneal transplant and the use of a topical steroid phosphate preparation.
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