Corneal Transplant


What is it?

The cornea is the clear membrane that covers the iris and pupil of the eye. If the cornea becomes clouded, stretched, or otherwise damaged, the patient’s vision is impaired or lost. A corneal transplant (keratoplasty) takes the cornea from a donor and transfers it to the patient. Doctors may transplant the entire cornea or only selected layers depending on the needs of the patient. A corneal transplant is often necessary in the event of corneal ulcers, corneal scarring, laceration, and several kinds of congenital syndromes. It is important for young children to receive eye exams early during development to identify and diagnose emerging vision problems.

How to Prepare

If the doctor determines that a corneal transplant is the appropriate option for the patient, he or she submits the patient’s information to a donor waiting list. The waiting process for a donor may last several days or weeks. Patients participate in eye exams and measurements during the days before to the procedure. Other eye issues (such as infections) are treated prior to surgery since these may cause complications.

What happens during the procedure?

The doctor administers local or general anesthesia depending on the health status and age of the patient. If a local anesthetic is used, the patient remains awake during surgery. The doctor may use eye drops or injections to numb the eye and relax facial muscles. The doctor then removes corneal tissue and replaces it with the healthy donor tissue. Stitches used to reestablish the corneal connection may remain in the eye for a year or longer to ensure attachment and recovery. A plastic shield is placed over the eye for post-surgical protection. Keratoplasty usually lasts one or two hours and can be performed on an outpatient basis.

Risks and Complications

* Eye infections

* Increased risk of cloudy eyes (cataracts)

* Increased risk of pressure within the eye (glaucoma)

* Rejection of the donor cornea

* Swelling of the cornea

* Bleeding

* Scarring

* Vision problems

* Leakage of fluid from transplant incision


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