Corneal transplantation

The clear domed shaped surface in front of the iris and pupil is called the cornea. It helps the eye to focus and see clearly. Corneal transplantation is a medical procedure that is sometimes recommended for people who have problems with their vision because of a thinning of the cornea or scaring that happens due to a severe infection or injury of the cornea. Corneal transplantation is also recommended for people who experience a loss of sight because of Fuch’s dystrophy. Fuch’s dystropy is a medial condition of the eye that causes a clouding of the cornea and a loss of vision. A corneal transplant involves transplanting the healthy cornea of a recently deceased person to replace the diseased cornea of a live patient. This is one of the most common tissue transplants that are done. Qualified ophthalmologists who specialize in eye surgery perform the procedure which is typically done on an outpatient basis.

Ramon Castroviego and Eduard Zirm were early pioneers in the area of corneal transplantation. It was Eduard Zirm who was the first doctor to successfully perform a corneal transplantation in 1905. Later, a soviet eye surgeon by the name of Vladimir Filatove was able to successfully transplant the corneal tissue of a deceased person in 1931.

Now, there are more than 40,000 cornea transplants successfully done in the United States alone to restore sight. In fact, of all the corneal transplants done, 90% are successful. Even though corneal transplantation is so successful the procedure is not without risk. A small number of patients may experience bleeding or infection of the eye and even rejection of the transplant after the surgery. The risk of developing Glaucoma is also present. This is when the pressure in the eye becomes so high that it can cause a loss of sight. There may also be swelling in the front of the eye after surgery. Some patients are allergic to the anesthesia that is used and breathing problems can occur during the procedure. The ophthalmologist will go over the risks with each patient who is a candidate for corneal transplantation.

Each patient who is a candidate for corneal transplantation must be evaluated by a medical doctor. The patient must also be given a comprehensive eye exam before the procedure. The eye will be measured so that the size of the cornea replacement can be determined. Before transplantation can be performed, any underlying infection must be cleared up. The patient is usually conscious during the cornea transplantation surgery which is not painful. However, the patient can also opt to be unconscious if they do not want to be aware and awake during the procedure. A local anesthetic is used to numb they eye. During the procedure the diseased cornea is excised and then replaced with a donor cornea that is stitched into place. The thread used to stitch the cornea is very thin and delicate. The stitches are later removed when the patient goes in for a post operative visit. Eye drops and oral medications are prescribed to prevent pain and infection after the surgery. The patient will be given a metal eye patch to wear for protection of the eye after the surgery. It can take several months for the cornea to heal and improvement in vision to be experienced by the patient.

In 5 – 30% of all corneal transplantations the patient’s immune system will cause the body to reject the corneal transplant. When this happens the patient will feel pain, have sensitivity to light and a loss of vision. Patients who experience these symptoms after surgery should consult immediately with their ophthalmologist. The majority of people who have this procedure performed experience a better quality of life because of it. A corneal transplantation can restore reduce eye pain, restore vision and remove the appearance of a diseased or damaged cornea from the eye. Patient will both see better and look better after corneal transplantation.

Last updated on Feb 18th, 2010 and filed under Vision Care. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Corneal transplantation”

  1. Austin Lasik says:

    Thanks, this was a great overview of a corneal transplant. I’ve been doing research and this is one of the best I’ve found. Has anyone had this done that had negative side effects? I’ve read the warnings, but am interested to hear a first-hand experience. Thanks!

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