Our Corneal Specialists can often treat most of cornea problems and conditions and corneal diseases using non-surgical treatment options. However if they are not diagnosed and treated early or if they progress to where vision is compromised beyond an acceptable level, it may be necessary to perform a corneal transplant.
What Is A Corneal Transplant?
A Corneal Transplant is a type of eye surgery we perform in order to replace diseased, damaged or scarred corneal tissue with new healthy corneal tissue. Since damaged or scarred corneal tissue does not allow light to effectively pass into the eye and reach the retina, poor vision and even blindness may result from a damaged cornea. There are actually a number of different types of Corneal Transplants that we can perform.
This type of Corneal Transplant involves the surgical removal of the central two-thirds thickness of the damaged cornea. We remove the central portion of the damaged or cloudy cornea with a “cookie cutter” like instrument called a trephine, and replace it with a clear cornea obtained from the eye bank. We then very carefully sew the donor cornea into place using sutures that are thinner than a human hair. To facilitate the healing of the new transplanted cornea, we prescribe eye drops for patients who have had corneal transplants. After the new cornea has healed properly, we will remove the fine sutures or stitches he put in place during the surgery. Usually we will remove these sutures right in our office at The Eye Care & Surgery Center. This type of transplant has the potential to provide the clearest vision after healing because there is no interface (layer) to look through. However, the healing time is longer and the use of a contact lens might be required for the clearest vision.
Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSEK)
This type of Corneal Transplant is performed through a small incision, to remove and replace the inner cell layer of the cornea when it stops working properly. With this technique, we gently “strips” off the single diseased cell layer, called the Endothelium, and leaves the remaining cornea intact. Using a prepared thinly sliced donor cornea from the eye bank we are able to fold the back portion in half and inserts it through a small incision into the eye. We then use an air bubble to unfold and position the donor tissue on the recipient cornea. Within a few minutes the donor tissue attaches to the recipient without the use of any sutures. There are a number of advantages of DSEK if you are indeed a candidate:
- Your eye remains much stronger
- Visual recovery is very rapid
- DSEK causes little change in eyeglass glasses prescription
Corneal Transplants have become somewhat common in the United States as a treatment for damaged and cloudy corneas. Each year more than 40,000 people undergo corneal transplantation to restore their vision. If we find that other methods of treating your corneal disease or corneal condition are inadequate to give you good sight, we will fully discuss the risks and benefits of corneal transplantation and take the time necessary to answer all of your questions.