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Corneal Transplant: What to Know

The cornea literally sits front and center on the eye. We can’t visualize it by looking in the mirror, but this clear surface provides constant protection to the inner ocular structures. The cornea acts as a barrier to environmental debris like dust and also inhibits injury to the central parts of the eye. The cornea itself, however, may sustain damage. In the case of severe corneal degradation, we may suggest a corneal transplant.

Corneal transplant surgery is also called keratoplasty (KP). The procedure is performed approximately 40,000 times each year, according to the National Eye Institute, and achieves a 5- to 10-year success rate in more than 95 percent of cases. As it sounds, the procedure involves replacing the natural cornea with donor tissue, a necessary task in preserving sight.

Who Might Need a Corneal Transplant?

We don’t normally consider eye surgery related to conditions other than cataracts and refractive errors such as astigmatism. Corneal transplant surgery is less common but still a valuable approach in specific cases. A person may need corneal transplant treatment if they have sustained an injury that has severely scratched or otherwise affected the cornea. Scarring and disease such as keratoconus may also cause corneal damage.

Keratoconus is a condition in which the degenerating cornea begins to thin out and protrude forward. This protrusion causes the cornea to become misshaped. In some cases, the cone-shaped cornea can be corrected with a rigid, gas-permeable contact lens. However, surgical repair may be necessary when the curvature of the cornea is severe.

Corneal Transplant Procedure

Corneal transplants are performed on an outpatient basis, there is no need for an overnight stay in the hospital. In many cases, the procedure can be conducted with local anesthesia that is administered in the form of numbing eye drops. This technique is similar to laser eye surgery such as LASIK. When the eye has been anesthetized, a special instrument is used to remove the centermost part of the cornea. Donor tissue is then affixed in its place, secured with fine sutures that are entirely discrete during the time of healing. The threads that stabilize the cornea as tissues fuse together may remain for several months.

Learn more about corneal transplant. Contact our Albany eye center at 518.475.1515 to schedule your consultation.

Posted in: Corneal Transplant

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