Cornea is the clear outermost layer of the eye which focuses on light to help us see better. Unlike other tissues, it does not have blood vessels. Cornea can get damaged due to various infections or eye injuries. Those infections are treatable with medications but severe cornea damage can lead to corneal scarring. In this case, corneal transplant is considered to be the best option.
These might sound a little complex. So, let’s talk about a few things you should know about Corneal Transplant.
What is Corneal Transplant Surgery?
As the name suggests, corneal transplant involves replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy one from a deceased donor. The doctor might need to remove all or a part of the cornea, depending on the damage, and replace it with a healthy tissue layer.
Another name for cornea transplant is called Keratoplasty. The three most important things it is great at, are-
- Can bring back vision
- Helps to lessen the pain
- Improve the appearance of the cornea
TYPES OF SURGERY PROCEDURE
There are mainly three types of surgery procedure for corneal transplant. They are:-
- Full Thickness Corneal Transplant
When both the inner and outer layers of the cornea are damaged, one might need to go through the Full Thickness Corneal Transplant. In this Surgery, the whole cornea is replaced with the healthy one from the donor.
- Partial Thickness Corneal Transplant
If the cornea is only partially affected, then the Partial Thickness Corneal Transplant surgery is recommended.in this, only the damaged layers are removed and replaced with the healthy ones. The healing time for this surgery is relatively less and has minimal chances of eye infections.
Endothelium is the innermost layer of the cornea. Endothelial Keratoplasty is performed when the innermost layer of cornea is damaged.
Depending on the damage level of the cornea, the doctor prescribes the suitable surgery procedure.
Who needs Corneal Transplant Surgery?
Corneal Transplant Surgery is mainly performed when the cornea is damaged or for an unhealthy cornea. However, there are certain medical conditions that can require corneal transplant.
This is a condition where the cornea weakens, gets thinner and also changes shape. Keratoconus is one of the most common conditions among younger patients to opt for corneal transplant.
Some conditions can affect eyes to slowly develop problems over a long period of time. These happen faster when one gets old. One of the examples for this can be a genetic condition, called, Fuchs’ endothelial dystrophy.
Some other conditions that require corneal transplant surgery are-
- Corneal Infection
- Scarring of the Cornea due to any injury
- Thinning, clouding or swelling of the Cornea
- Problems caused by previous eye operation
These conditions can be treated with the help of glasses or lenses. But if there is no progress, Cataract Transplant will remain the only option.
How to prepare for the surgery?
A thorough eye exam has to be conducted before scheduling for the Corneal Transplant. The doctor will take all the necessary information related to your eye, including its measurements or details about any previous eye operation. There are a few things that you need to remember before the surgery day. Like-
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing to the surgery
- Refrain from using makeup or fragrances
- Ask someone to accompany you for the surgery
Since, the cornea will have to be replaced with that of a healthy cornea, a healthy donor cornea is then found for the procedure. Before the surgery, inform your doctor about all the supplements or medications that you are taking. Those medications will be reviewed and you might need to stop taking them. In case of any eye problems, those will be treated before the surgery. You might need to use antibiotic eye drops the day before to prevent any kind of infection.
What to expect during the Surgery?
During the surgery, the doctor will sedate you with local anaesthesia. You might be awake for the whole procedure but will be unable to feel any pain during the surgery. This surgery usually takes around 30 minutes to an hour.
The doctor will look through a microscope during the whole procedure. An instrument called lid speculum will be used to keep the eyelids open. Depending on the damage of the cornea, the damaged parts will be removed and replaced. This surgery is done on one eye at a time.
POST SURGERY PRECAUTIONS
After the transplant has been done, the patient is kept for observation. An eye patch or shield will be attached by the doctor after the surgery. The doctor will inform you about the after care required. One will need to follow the following precautions-
- Prescribed eye drops should be used as suggested.
- Avoid rubbing or scratching your eyes.
- Wear the eye shield to protect eyes from any infection.
- Do not return to your regular activities without consulting your doctor.
- In case of any complications, inform immediately.
Rejection of the donor cornea
The Corneal Transplant Surgery is considered to be a safe procedure. But in some cases, the immune system might attack the transplanted cornea or tissues. This is the body’s rejection of the donor cornea. While the chances are as low as 20%, watch out for the following signs-
- Decrease in the vision
- Increase of redness in the eye
- Severe Pain
- Watering of the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to light.
If you notice any of these signs, consult your doctor immediately.
Corneal Transplant Success Rate
Corneal Transplant Life Expectancy
The Corneal Transplant can last for at least 10 years without any complications. Make sure to have your eyes checked frequently, in order to avoid any kind of complication.
Schedule frequent eye check-ups after the surgery. You will need to visit your opthamologist on regular intervals for a year.
The success rate of corneal transplant is relatively higher with around 80%-90% of successful transplants.
The recovery time for corneal transplant depends on the success of the surgery. In case of a successful transplant, you can expect to start your regular activities in about one to two weeks.
Every surgery has risks associated with it. But they are treatable. Remember to get your eyes checked at the earliest to avoid any further damage.