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Purpose. To report a case of progressive ulcerative keratitis related to the use of topical chlorhexidine gluconate 0.02%.

Methods. A 45-year-old woman was treated for presumed Acanthamoeba keratitis with chlorhexidine gluconate 0.02% and propamidine 0.1% eyedrops.

Results. After using the chlorhexidine and propamidine eyedrops for 8 weeks, the patient developed a near total loss of the corneal epithelium and a progressive ulcerative keratitis, which eventually required penetrating keratoplasty. Histopathologic examination of the corneal button showed ulceration and loss of Bowman's membrane, massive loss of keratocytes with apparent apoptosis, and loss of the endothelial cells with inflammatory cells adherent to the remaining cells. These histopathologic findings are similar to those seen in Hibiclens keratopathy. Hibiclens contains chlorhexidine 4% with a detergent. No organisms were seen in sections stained with modified Ziehl-Neelsen, gram, Grocott, or periodic acid-Schiff, and immunohistochemistry showed no significant findings.

Conclusion. We think that the topical use of chlorhexidine gluconate 0.02% may have resulted in a progressive ulcerative keratitis in our patient.

(C) 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.