Corneal Transplants & Surgery

About Corneal Transplants & Surgery
A corneal transplant can become necessary if non-surgical treatment options have been unsuccessful at managing cornea problems, conditions, or diseases and they have progressed to where vision is compromised beyond an acceptable level. A corneal transplant is a type of eye surgery performed 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 may be appropriate or necessary depending on the condition of your cornea and the degree of vision loss.

Penetrating Keratoplasty involves the surgical removal of the central part of the damaged or cloudy cornea with a “cookie cutter” like instrument called a trephine, and replacing it with a clear cornea obtained from the eye bank. The donor “button” is very carefully sewn into place using sutures that are thinner than a human hair and prescription eye drops are used to aid in healing.

Once the healing is complete the sutures are removed. This type of cornea 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) is another type of corneal transplant that is performed through a small incision where it is possible to remove and replace the inner cell layer of the cornea when it stops working properly. Using this technique, the single diseased cell layer, called the Endothelium, is gently “stripped” off, leaving the remaining cornea intact. Then, a thin slice of donor cornea from the eye bank can be folded and inserted through a small incision into the eye. By using 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:

  1. Your eye remains much stronger
  2. Visual recovery is very rapid
  3. DSEK typically cause little change in your eyeglass 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.

If you or someone you know has suffered vision loss from some type of corneal trauma, infection, disease, dystrophy or other condition and requires a corneal transplant or any type of corneal surgery, we are happy to provide a consultation by calling Baltimore Washington Eye Center at 800-495-3937 to schedule an appointment.