Our Denver Eye surgeons perform corneal transplants to many patients in the Denver Colorado region. Before undergoing corneal transplant surgery you will have a number of examinations. At Omni Eye we want our patients to have the knowledge and understanding of the Corneal Transplant procedure.
A corneal transplant (“keratoplasty”) is a surgical procedure where part of the cornea is replaced with a donor’s corneal tissue.
The cornea is the transparent surface of your eye; it is generally dome shaped and accounts for most of your eye’s focusing power. A corneal transplant can in an eye with a damaged cornea:
- Restore vision
- Enhance the look of a damaged or diseased cornea
- Reduce pain in the cornea
Corneal Transplant Information
Corneal transplants are performed for a number of reasons, including:
- Thin or cloudy cornea
- Ulcers of the cornea
- Cornea scarring, which can because by injury or infection
- A cornea that bulges outward (Keratoconus)
- Complications of a previous eye surgery
Most corneal transplants are successful, though, as with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications. The most common complication is rejection of the donor cornea.
Some other possible complications include:
- Swelling of the cornea
- Infection of the eye
- Problems with the stitches that are used to transplant the donor cornea
The major risk is corneal rejection, when the patient’s immune system attacks the cornea from the donor. This can require additional treatment or sometimes another corneal transplant.
Patients who have had a corneal transplant should report to their doctor any signs of rejection including:
- Light sensitivity
- Loss of vision
Corneal transplant rejection occurs in about 10% of cornea transplants. Therefore, it is not uncommon and patients should be aware of the symptoms of corneal transplant rejection.
Prior to Corneal Transplant
Before undergoing corneal transplant surgery you will have a number of examinations. These include an eye exam during which your doctor will look for conditions that might cause you to have surgery complications. Your doctor will also take specific measurements of your eye to determine what size cornea you will need from a donor.
You also receive treatment for any other eye problems you currently have, as eye problems that are unrelated such as inflammation or infection can reduce the chances of a successful corneal transplant.
Corneal Transplant Details
Before your corneal transplant a number of things will occur. First, your doctor will give you a complete preoperative examination and will make every attempt to confirm optic nerve and retinal function prior to surgery. This can help to avoid cases in which visual improvement does not occur. You’ll be given a sedative to help you relax and a local anesthetic to numb your eyes. Children and anxious patients might require general anesthesia.
During the corneal transplant, your doctor will cut through the diseased or abnormal cornea to remove the corneal “button”; this is a disc of corneal tissue. A tool called a trephine, which looks like a cookie-cutter, is used to make the cut.
At this point, the donor tissue has been processed and is tested extensively to ensure that it is healthy and an ideal cornea for transplantation. It has also been cut to fit on the patient’s eye bed.
Once the bed is ready for the donor cornea, the donor cornea is gently set and sewn into its place with a very fine thread. The sutures remain intact for up to a year. Your doctor may remove them periodically at future visits
Recovery from Corneal Transplant
Following Corneal Transplant surgery:
- You will receive several medications such as eye drops and sometimes oral medications. These help to control infection, pain, and swelling.
- You will wear a protective eye shield. The metal eye shield helps to protect your eye. You’ll wear the eye shield for a day or two immediately after surgery and then only at night for the next few days following surgery.
- You must protect your eyes from injury.
The first year after surgery you should expect to have frequent eye exams. Usually these exams are weekly at first and these are followed by monthly exams. Eventually you may be able to see your doctor only every few months.