Br J Ophthalmol 89:591-596 doi:10.1136/bjo.2004.049072
  • Clinical science
    • Extended reports

Infective keratitis in older patients: a 4 year review, 1998–2002

  1. T K H Butler,
  2. N A Spencer,
  3. C C K Chan,
  4. J Singh Gilhotra,
  5. K McClellan
  1. Department of Clinical Ophthalmology and Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney, GPO Box 4337, Sydney, NSW, 2001, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: Dr K McClellan Department of Clinical Ophthalmology and Save Sight Institute, University of Sydney, GPO Box 4337, Sydney, NSW, 2001, Australia;
  • Accepted 1 September 2004


Background/aim: There are few clinical series in the literature of infective keratitis in the elderly, even though this age group constitutes a significant proportion of those affected by this condition. The authors aimed to determine the incidence and risk factors for infective keratitis in those over 60 years, the causative organisms, antibiotic susceptibilities, visual and tectonic outcome, and surgical intervention rate.

Methods: A retrospective review of all patients aged 60 years and over admitted to the Sydney Eye Hospital with a diagnosis of infective keratitis, between September 1998 and December 2002.

Results: 190 patients were identified with a mean age of 75.5 (SD 9.6) years (range 60–101). Local risk factors were found in 93.7%, and systemic risk factors in 27.9%. Organisms were cultured in 62.8%, and 7.9% had positive herpes simplex virus (HSV) polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Perforation or severe thinning occurred in 36% overall, but in 80% with positive HSV PCR. Acute surgical intervention was required in 43.7%, with acute penetrating keratoplasty performed in 17.9%, and 8.9% required evisceration. Mean presenting visual acuity was 1.82 (SD 1.24), equivalent to 6/300, excluding 26.3% with vision of light perception (LP) or worse. Mean final visual acuity was 1.24 (SD 1.16), equivalent to 6/100, excluding 19.5% with vision of LP or worse (p<0.0005).

Conclusions: The elderly represent a distinct clinical group in the context of microbial keratitis. Predisposing factors are very common, they present with poor vision, have a high complication and surgical intervention rate, and a poor visual outcome compared to younger patients. The microbiological spectrum is similar to younger age groups, except that HSV is more common and may increase the risk of severe corneal thinning and perforation. Most bacterial isolates remain sensitive to currently available antibiotic preparations.


  • Competing interests: none declared