Eye Surgery Corneal

Learning about the process of corneal transplant surgery may seem involved and overwhelming, but it’s key to understanding the advantages and possible side effects associated with this procedure. Read on to learn about corneal transplants, including information about the corneal transplant procedure, transplant cost and more.

What is a Corneal Transplant?

Also known as keratoplasty, penetrating keratoplasty or corneal graft, a corneal transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces the clear surface on the front of the eye, known as the cornea.

The Corneal Transplant Procedure

Here is an outline of what to expect from a corneal transplant procedure:

Corneal Transplant

  • Beginning steps: First, you’ll meet with an ophthalmologist for an examination and diagnosis. After discussing potential pros and cons, you’ll sign a consent form and set the date for the surgery itself.
  • During surgery: Most patients are awake during a corneal transplant surgery, which takes place in an operating room at a hospital. After injecting your eye with anesthesia, the surgeon will place your eye in an eyelid speculum and keep it moist with some lubricating drops. The surgeon will then stitch a metal ring to the sclera (the outside of the eyeball) that provides a base for a trephine (a tiny, surgical saw.)Corneal transplants use tissue from recently deceased donors. Your surgeon will remove a tiny circle-shaped piece of your cornea, called the “button,” and stitch the donated cornea into that opening. The area is sterilized and tested to make sure it is watertight. The doctor will then give you antibiotic eye drops and an eye patch and send on your way. Ophthalmologists perform this procedure on an out-patient basis.
  • After the surgery: After a certain period of time, ranging anywhere from 6 to 17 months, your surgeon will remove the stitches. At this time, the surgeon may recommend that the patient receive steroids.

Candidates for Corneal Transplant Surgery

Although corneal transplant surgery is very sophisticated, it’s not for everyone. Avoid getting a corneal transplant if you suffer from:

  • Cataracts: A cloudiness of the cornea that can cause vision loss.
  • Cornea scarring: Such as those from previous severe infections or injuries.
  • Keratoconus: A thinning of the cornea that causes vision problems.
  • Neovascularization: Significant blood vessel growth into the usually clear cornea.

Corneal Transplant Surgery’s Risks and Side Effects

Like any surgery, corneal transplants involve some risk, including:

  • astigmatism
  • bleeding or infection
  • decreased vision
  • eye redness
  • flashes or light or “floaters”
  • glaucoma
  • light sensitivity
  • pain
  • rejection of the transplanted tissue (This occurs in 11 to 18 percent of patients. Signs of tissue rejection can flare between one month to five years following the corneal transplant.)
  • swelling at the front of the eye.

Recovery can take up to one year. After that, most patients can expect good vision for many years. During your convalescence, your surgeon will give you a comfortable eye patch to wear for a short period of time, protecting your new cornea from injury or disturbance as it heals.

Eye drops will help prevent rejection or infection. You may notice that during recovery, your prescription for glasses or contacts fluctuates. This is normal and should stop fluctuating as the recovery time draws to a close.

Costs and Support Groups

Synthetic corneas can cost about $7,000. Processing for donated corneas costs about $2,800. Other costs associated with the surgery, including anesthesia, vary according to the surgeon you choose. Be sure to know about all costs involved with the surgery before undergoing the procedure.

There are wonderful support groups that provide information, support and care for patients of corneal transplants.