The critical role of the conjunctiva in glaucoma filtration surgery

Dao-Yi Yu, William Morgan, X. Sun, Er-Ning Su, Stephen Cringle, Paula Yu, Philip House, W. Guo, X. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


This review considers the critical role of the conjunctiva in determining the success or failure of glaucoma filtration surgery. Glaucoma filtration surgery can be defined as an attempt to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) by the surgical formation of an artificial drainage pathway from the anterior chamber to the subconjunctival space. Many types of glaucoma filtration surgery have been developed since the first attempts almost 180 years ago. The wide range of new techniques and devices currently under investigation is testament to the limitations of current techniques and the need for improved therapeutic outcomes. Whilst great attention has been paid to surgical techniques and devices to create the drainage pathway, relatively little attention has been given to address the question of why drainage from such artificial pathways is often problematic. This is in contrast to normal drainage pathways which last a lifetime. Furthermore, the consequences of potential changes in aqueous humour properties induced by glaucoma filtration surgery have not been sufficiently addressed. The mechanisms by which aqueous fluid is drained from the subconjunctival space after filtration surgery have also received relatively little attention. We propose that factors such as the degree of tissue damage during surgery, the surrounding tissue reaction to any surgical implant, and the degree of disruption of normal aqueous properties, are all factors which influence the successful formation of long term drainage channels from the conjunctiva, and that these channels are the key to successful filtration surgery. In recent years it has been suggested that the rate of fluid drainage from the subconjunctival space is actually the determining factor in the resultant IOP reduction. Improved knowledge of aqueous humour induced changes in such drainage pathways has the potential to significantly improve the surgical management of glaucoma.We describe for the first time a novel type of drainage surgery which attempts to minimise surgical trauma to the overlying conjunctiva. The rationale is that a healthy conjunctiva allows drainage channels to form and less opportunity for inflammation and scar tissue formation which are a frequent cause of failure in glaucoma filtration surgery. Successful drainage over extended periods of time has been demonstrated in monkey and rabbit eyes. Long lasting drainage pathways were clearly associated with the presence of lymphatic drainage pathways. A new philosophy in glaucoma drainage surgery is proposed in which minimisation of surgical trauma to the conjunctiva and the encouragement of the development of conjunctival drainage pathways, particularly lymphatic pathways, are central pillars to a successful outcome in glaucoma filtration surgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-328
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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