Cornea is the front part of our eyes. It is the transparent part of our eye that covers the pupil, iris and retina.
Corneal Transplant is a surgical procedure where a portion of our cornea is removed and replaced with a portion of the cornea from a donor. Corneal Transplant also known as keratoplasty is performed 400,000 times in America only. With this numbers, we can only imagine the importance of this procedure.
What is the role of the Cornea?
Light passes through the cornea in daily light accommodation. This allows us to see our surrounding properly. It must remain clear for us to see clearly.
Most Common corneal damage:
1. Corneal damage from scarring and infection.
3. Inherited corneal dystrophies.
Corneal Transplant is necessary when normal vision cannot be achieved by eyeglasses or contact lenses and if pain and swelling is not relieved by medications or other treatment.
Types of corneal transplant:
1. Penetrating keratoplasty – full thickness transplant. Type of transplant where the original cornea portion will be replaced entirely.
2. Deep Anterior Lumellar Keratoplasty -only the outer to the middle portion of the cornea is replaced.
3. Endothelial Keratoplasty – the most inner portion of the cornea is removed and replaced.
In most cases of Corneal Transplants, the procedure approximately lasts for less than an hour. Stitches made on corneal transplants must be kept for 12 months to allow the eye to fully recover.
As with other surgical procedure, it causes a high risk for bleeding and infection primarily due to the incision and the stitches. However, 95 percent of full thickness transplant establishes a low risk conditions. This procedure usually lasts up to 10 years under normal conditions.
How is it done?
Full thickness keratoplasty – A circular piece of the cornea is removed and replaced with the donor’s portion of the cornea. A cutting device called the trephine is used to cut this portion while the new cornea is held in place by tiny stitches in the eye. The operation usually takes 45 minutes to perform.
In partial thickness keratoplasty, stitches are not done and it reduce risks for infections and complication. Compared to full thickness keratoplasty, this usually takes longer to perform as only a portion of the cornea is removed and replaced.
Risks of Corneal Transplant:
Rejection: this may happen when a person’s immune system recognizes the replacement cornea as a foreign material and attacks it. This is a common complication and it usually manifest a few weeks to months after the procedure. Symptoms of which includes red eye, sensitivity to light, vision problem and light pain. However, this can be treated with steroid drops and topical eye ointments.
Other complications include astigmatism, glaucoma, uveitis, and retinal detachment.
Care after Corneal Transplant Procedure:
Taking care of the eye should be given with utmost importance after the procedure. Here are some tips to take care of the eye post operatively:
1. Never rub your eyes.
2. Avoid strenuous activities for the first few weeks.
3. Avoid dusty or smoky areas.
4. Don’t drive until your doctor permits you to drive.
Vision is an important aspect of our lives. Despite corneal transplant, we need to remember that it within our power to take care of ourselves and our eyes.
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