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Cornea Transplant Procedure
Once you have decided that a corneal transplant is the best option to restore your functional vision, your name is placed on a list at a local eye bank. The waiting period for a donor eye is generally one to two weeks due to a very sophisticated eye bank system in the United States.
Before donor corneas are released for transplant,
the tissue is checked for clarity. Also, donor eyes supplying transplant tissue are meticulously screened for presence of diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS or other damage to ensure the health and safety of the recipient.
Typically, corneal transplants are performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that you will not need hospitalization. Local or general anesthesia is used, depending on your health, age and whether or not you prefer to be asleep during the procedure. With local anesthesia, an injection into the skin around your eye is used to relax muscles that control blinking and eye movement, and eye drops are used to numb the eye itself.
After the anesthesia has taken effect, the eyelids are held open with a special instrument (lid speculum). Your eye surgeon inspects and measures the affected corneal area in order to determine the size of donor tissue needed.
A round, button-shaped section of tissue is then removed from your diseased or injured cornea. Any additional work, such as cataract removal, is completed. A nearly identical-shaped button from the donor tissue is then sutured into place. Finally, the surgeon will place a plastic shield over your eye to protect it from being inadvertently rubbed or bumped. The surgery takes one to two hours.
Recovering From a Cornea Transplant
The total recovery time for a corneal transplant can be up to a year or longer. Initially, your vision will be blurry and the site of your corneal transplant may be swollen and slightly thicker than the rest of your cornea. As your vision improves, you will gradually be able to return to your normal daily activities.
A cornea transplant, which replaces damaged tissue on the eye's clear surface, also is referred to as a corneal transplant, keratoplasty, penetrating keratoplasty (PK) or corneal graft.
A graft replaces central corneal tissue, damaged due to disease or eye injury, with healthy corneal tissue donated from a local eye bank. An unhealthy cornea affects your vision by scattering or distorting light and causing glare and blurred vision. A cornea transplant may be necessary to restore your functional vision.
Cornea transplants are performed routinely. In fact, of all tissue transplants, the most successful is a corneal transplant.
More than 40,000 cornea transplants are performed in the United States each year, according to the Eye Bank Association of America 2008 Statistical Report.
new version of corneal transplant, known as Descemet's Stripping Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK), also has been introduced as a new surgical method that uses only a very thin portion of the cornea for transplant.
Are You a Cornea Transplant Candidate?
if you are suggested to be a corneal transplant for reasons varying from diseases to eye injuries, which can include the following:
  • Scarring from infections, such as eye herpes or fungal keratitis.
  • Eye diseases such as keratoconus.
  • Hereditary factors or corneal failure from previous surgeries.
  • Thinning of the cornea and irregular shape (such as with keratoconus).
  • Chemical burns on the cornea or damage from an eye injury.
  • Excessive swelling (edema) on the cornea.