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If the cornea no longer lets light enter the eyes properly due to scarring or disease, then a transplant might be required. During the cornea transplant, an ophthalmologist replaces a portion of the cornea with a new portion from the donor. This clear tissue covers the front of each eye allowing light to pass through to enter the eye, then going through the pupil and then through the lens.
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When Is Cornea Transplant Recommended?
An ophthalmologist recommends for a cornea transplant when:
- Vision problems are present due to keratoconus(steep curving) that cause the cornea to become thinner,
- one or both corneas have scars due to previous injuries/infections,
- there is vision loss due to cloudy corneas caused by Fuchs dystrophy or any similar condition,
- vision cannot be corrected with contact lenses or eyeglasses,
- Cornea swelling is present which cannot be healed by any medications
Types of Cornea Transplants
- Penetrating Cornea Transplant: Penetrating Cornea Transplant also referred to as Penetrating Keratoplasty(PK), is a full-thickness transplant procedure, in which a trephine of appropriate diameter is used to make a full-thickness resection of the patient’s cornea. This is then followed by the placement of a full-thickness donor corneal graft.
- Lamellar Cornea Transplant: The surgeon replaces only some of the layers of the cornea with the lamellar cornea transplant. A lamellar cornea transplant is the most appropriate transplant when the disease has affected only a portion of the cornea.
What Happens During Cornea Transplant?
- During the transplant, the patient will remain awake. But a sedative will be given to help them relax.
- The ophthalmic surgeon will inject an anesthetic around the patient’s eye to prevent pain and keep the eye muscles from moving.
- The surgery is performed using a microscope.
- Using the atrephine (a cutting instrument), the surgeon will remove a round piece of the cornea and then replace it with the new one.
- The surgeon will cut to fit and will sew the slit with an ultra-fine thread. The thread stays in the patient’s eye until the cornea heals. The eye doctor will, after that, remove the thread easily.
- The duration of the surgery is about 30 minutes to an hour.
What Happens After Cornea Transplant?
- The patient will be able to go home on the same day of the surgery.
- The doctor will top the patient’s eye with an eye patch or a gauze, which should be worn up to four days. Therefore, the patient may feel some soreness in the affected eye.
- It is strictly forbidden for patients to rub their eyes.
- The eye doctor will prescribe some eye drops or oral medicines to heal and to avert infection or rejection.
- Patients need to call for medical help immediately if they experience breathlessness, coughing, fever, nausea, chest pain, or vomiting.
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