Corneal Transplant in Portland OR
Corneal Transplant FAQs
What is a corneal transplant?
A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure to replace part of your cornea with donor corneal tissue. There are two main options for this procedure: full thickness cornea transplant or back layer cornea transplant. The goal is to replace damaged or diseased cornea tissue that is impacting the patient’s vision beyond what can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Who is a candidate for a corneal transplant?
Corneal eye disease is the fourth most common cause of blindness, affecting over 10 million people worldwide. If your cornea is damaged due to disease or injury, it can become swollen, scarred, or severely misshapen and this distorts your vision. A cornea transplant could be necessary if eyeglasses or contact lenses can no longer correct the vision enough to be functional. Sometimes, painful swelling can also dictate a transplant. These are some specific conditions that can be treated with a cornea transplant:
- An outwardly bulging cornea
- Fuch’s dystrophy
- A thinning cornea
- Clouding of the cornea
- Cornea scarring from injury or infection
- Swelling of the cornea
- Corneal ulcers
- Complications from previous eye surgery
How is a corneal transplant performed?
Prior to this procedure, you’ll be given a sedative to help you relax. Because you need to be awake during the procedure, only local anesthetic is used, so that you have no feeling in your eye area. The most common option is a full thickness replacement. Your Eye Clinic surgeon will cut through the entire thickness of the abnormal or diseased cornea, removing a circular disk of tissue. An instrument called a trephine is used to precisely make the circular, button-sized cut. The next step is to cut the donor tissue to the same size. This donor tissue is then placed into the spot where the damaged tissue was removed, and this is stitched into place. If a full-thickness replacement isn’t appropriate, we may remove certain layers at either the back or front of the cornea. These are replaced with donor tissue.
How long does the procedure take?
These transplants take from 1-2 hours, depending on if they are full thickness or layer replacements.
What is the recovery time?
It takes time for the eye to adapt and recover after this procedure, so patience is necessary. Recovery after a cornea transplant takes time, up to a year or even longer. In the beginning, your vision will likely be even worse than it was prior to your surgery because your eye takes time to get used to the new cornea. Your vision will improve and you’ll begin returning to your normal routines. Most patients can return to work within a week after surgery, depending on your job and how quickly your vision begins to improve. You’ll need to be careful with lifting, as you need to avoid increasing blood pressure to the head and face. Heavy, strenuous exercise and lifting are prohibited for a number of weeks; your Eye Clinic surgeon will discuss this with you. You’ll use steroid eye drops for several months after your transplant to help your body accept the new corneal graft. You’ll also need to protect your eye at all times with either a shield or eyeglasses; you can’t inadvertently bump your eye.
What are the risks/side effects of a cornea transplant?
With a corneal transplant, the biggest risk is that your body will reject the donor cornea. Rejection of donor tissue occurs in up to 30 percent of patients, and it occurs when your body believes the new tissue is a foreign body and attacks it. If you recognize the warning signs of tissue rejection, however, graft failure can often be prevented. To remember what to look for use the acronym RSVP:
- Extreme Sensitivity to light
- Decreased Vision
The possibility of rejection can last for years after your surgery; that’s why steroid drops are used. If any signs of rejection are detected early, the graft is successful around 90 percent of the time.
What is the success rate for corneal transplants?
Success rates of corneal transplants are very high and continue to increase with new techniques and better eye bank protocols. If the patient can avoid rejection (or at least see the signs to reverse it early), success rates for this surgery are around 90 percent. It is one of the most successful of all tissue transplants in the body.