Corneal Cross-Linking (Collagen Cross-Linking)

Corneal cross-linking, also called collagen cross-linking, is an in-office procedure used to treat patients with an eye disease called keratoconus and corneal ectasia after laser surgery.

What to Expect

The cornea contains tiny fibers of protein called collagen. The bonds (crosslinks) between the collagen fibers help hold the cornea in place and keep it from changing shape. Keratoconus causes these crosslinks to weaken, allowing the cornea to bulge, steepen and gradually become more cone shaped.

The corneal cross-linking procedure increases the bonding between the collagen fibers, strengthening the cornea and halting the progression of keratoconus.

The treatment is not a cure for keratoconus, but it can stabilize the cornea, prevent further vision loss and reduce the need for a corneal transplant.

The Corneal Cross-Linking Procedure

Corneal cross-linking involves applying riboflavin (vitamin B12) eye drops to the cornea and exposing the cornea to a low dose of ultraviolet light. The riboflavin reacts with the ultraviolet light causing the collagen fibers within the cornea to cross-link -- or bond more tightly. The top-most layer of the cornea (corneal epithelial layer) is typically removed to increase absorption of the riboflavin.

The procedure lasts 60 to 90 minutes. Patients will see results after six months to one year.

Make an Appointment

University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center is among the most experienced ophthalmology programs in the nation to offer corneal cross-linking.

Kellogg began offering cross-linking to patients three years ago during national clinical trials to examine the procedure’s safety and effectiveness. Results of the trial led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve cross-linking as a new treatment for progressive keratoconus in mid-April 2016.

For more information about corneal cross-linking or to schedule an appointment, call the Refractive Surgery clinic at the Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor at 734-615-5274.