PURPOSE: To map the collagen orientation and relative distribution of collagen fibrillar mass in keratoconus corneal buttons. METHODS: Structural analysis was performed by obtaining synchrotron x-ray scattering patterns across the samples at 0.25-mm intervals. The patterns were analyzed to produce two-dimensional maps of the orientation of the lamellae and of the distribution of total and preferentially aligned lamellae. RESULTS: Compared with normal corneas, in keratoconus the gross organization of the stromal lamellae was dramatically changed, and the collagen fibrillar mass was unevenly distributed, particularly around the presumed apex of the cone. CONCLUSIONS: The development of keratoconus involves a high degree of inter- and probably intralamellar displacement and slippage that leads to thinning of the central cornea and associated changes in corneal curvature. This slippage may be promoted by a loss of cohesive forces and mechanical failure in regions where lamellae bifurcate.
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