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Herpetic Eye Disease Study. A controlled trial of topical corticosteroids for herpes simplex stromal keratitis.

Author(s): Wilhelmus KR, Gee L, Hauck WW, Kurinij N, Dawson CR, Jones DB, Barron BA, Kaufman HE, Sugar J, Hyndiuk RA

Affiliation(s): Francis I. Proctor Foundation, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0412.

Publication date & source: 1994-12, Ophthalmology., 101(12):1883-95

Publication type: Clinical Trial; Multicenter Study; Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the efficacy of topical corticosteroids in treating herpes simplex stromal keratitis. METHODS: The authors performed a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial of 106 patients with active herpes simplex stromal keratitis who had not received any corticosteroids for at least 10 days before study enrollment. Patients were assigned to the placebo group (n = 49) or the steroid group (topical prednisolone phosphate; n = 57); both regimens were tapered over 10 weeks. Both groups received topical trifluridine. Visual acuity assessment and slit-lamp biomicroscopy were performed weekly for 10 weeks, every other week for an additional 6 weeks or until removal from the trial, and at 6 months after randomization. RESULTS: The time to treatment failure (defined by specific criteria as persistent or progressive stromal keratouveitis or an adverse event) was significantly longer in the steroid group compared with the placebo group. Compared with placebo, corticosteroid therapy reduced the risk of persistent or progressive stromal keratouveitis by 68%. The time from randomization to resolution of stromal keratitis and uveitis was significantly shorter in the steroid group compared with the placebo group even though both groups included patients who were removed from the study and treated with topical corticosteroids according to best medical judgment. Nineteen (33%) of the steroid-treated patients and 11 (22%) of the placebo-treated patients completed the 10 weeks of protocol therapy and had stable, noninflamed corneas after 16 weeks. At 6 months after randomization, no clinically or statistically significant differences in visual outcome or recurrent herpetic eye disease were identified between the steroid and placebo groups. CONCLUSIONS: The topical corticosteroid regimen used in this study was significantly better than placebo in reducing persistence or progression of stromal inflammation and in shortening the duration of herpes simplex stromal keratitis. Postponing steroids during careful observation for a few weeks delayed resolution of stromal keratitis but had no detrimental effect as assessed by visual outcome at 6 months.

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