Examining the Influence of COVID-19 Infection and Pandemic Restrictions on the Risk of Corneal Transplant Rejection or Failure: A Multicenter Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Seminars in ophthalmology




COVID-19; Graft failure; Graft rejection; Keratoplasty


PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate two aims. The first was whether patients with a history of keratoplasty who developed COVID-19 were at a higher risk of corneal graft rejection or failure. The second was examining whether patients who underwent a new keratoplasty during the first 2 years of the pandemic from 2020-2022 were at a higher risk of the same outcomes compared to those undergoing keratoplasty from 2017-2019 before the pandemic. METHODS: A multicenter research network, TriNetX, was used to query for keratoplasty patients with or without a COVID-19 between January 2020 and July 2022. Additionally, the database was also queried to identify new keratoplasties performed from January 2020-July 2022 and compare it to keratoplasties performed during a similar pre-pandemic interval between 2017-2019. 1:1 Propensity Score Matching was utilized to adjust for confounders. Graft complication of either a rejection or failure was assessed within 120 day follow-up using the Cox proportional hazard model and survival analysis. RESULTS: A total of 21,991 patients with any keratoplasty history were identified from January 2020-July 2022, of which 8.8% were diagnosed with COVID-19. Matching revealed two balanced cohorts of 1,927 patients where no significant difference in risk of corneal graft rejection or failure among groups ((aHR [95% CI] = 0.76 [0.43,1.34];  = .244)). Comparing first-time keratoplasties performed in a pandemic period of January 2020-July 2022 to a corresponding pre-pandemic interval from 2017-2019 also similarly revealed no differences in graft rejection or failure in matched analysis (aHR = 0.937[0.75, 1.17],  = .339). CONCLUSIONS: This study found no significant increase in the risk of graft rejection or failure in patients with a prior keratoplasty history following COVID-19 diagnosis nor in any patients who had a new keratoplasty done during 2020-2022 when compared to a similar pre-pandemic interval.