The cornea is the part of the eye that literally sits front and center. This clear anterior surface protects the inner structures from environmental factors like dust and also from injury. What happens in the event of severe corneal damage? At Central Florida Eye Institute, a corneal transplant may be recommended.
Corneal transplant treatment is also referred to as keratoplasty (KP). During this procedure, the center of the cornea is removed, and a small button of healthy, clear donor tissue is put in its place. The National Eye Institute reports that approximately 40,000 corneal transplant procedures are performed each year. The five- to ten-year success rate after surgery is 95 to 99 percent, confirming the beneficial aspects of this surgery.
Who Might Need a Corneal Transplant?
Corneal transplant surgery is generally reserved for situations in which the cornea has been damaged so severely that vision cannot be corrected without a transplant. Scarring, injury, and disease are all factors that could cause this damage. Keratoconus is one example, and a common reason for a corneal transplant.
Keratoconus is a degenerative condition that causes the cornea to bulge forward and thin. This leads to the development of an irregular cone shape. Initially, the shape of the cornea may be corrected with rigid gas permeable contact lenses. However, advanced curvature requires surgical repair.
Another reason that corneal transplant may be advised is when the cornea has been scarred by infection, traumatic injury, or other causes.
Corneal Transplant Procedure
Corneal transplant surgery is an outpatient procedure that may be conducted under local or general anesthesia, depending on the patient’s overall health and preferences. The center of the cornea is removed using a specialized instrument that excises the exact shape and depth that is necessary for an optimal surgical outcome. The clear donor tissue is then stitched into place using very fine suture threads. These sutures can remain in place for many months to support the full healing of the eye.
What to Expect After Corneal Transplant Surgery
After the corneal transplant procedure, vision may be slightly blurry due to inflammation and the thickness of the transplant. Eye drops need to be used for months to promote graft integration. Also, patients will wear eyeglasses or an eye shield for some time to protect the eye from debris and injury. As the tissue graft heals, the patient’s prescription for vision correction may change more frequently. Once the new cornea has completely healed, it may be possible to undergo LASIK to further improve vision.
For more information on corneal transplant, call our Ocala office at (352) 237-8400.