Conditions which alter the normally smooth contour of the cornea or lead to clouding of the normally crystal clear cornea, can lead to vision loss. When the vision loss is severe, a corneal transplant may become necessary. These conditions include, but are not limited to: trauma, infections of the cornea, keratoconus, Fuch’s Dystrophy, and chemical injury.
Corneal transplant surgery involves removing the patient’s damaged cornea and replacing it with a clear donor cornea. The procedure takes approximately one hour to perform and is normally done on an outpatient basis (you can go home the same day). Corneal transplants are the most successful transplant in the body with success rates from 85-95%. Like most eye surgery, corneal transplants are performed under an operating microscope which magnifies the eye 30 to 60 times. Serious complications are uncommon, but include graft rejection, infection, and bleeding in the eye.
While most patients are able to care for themselves within one to two days after surgery, it is important to refrain from heavy lifting or swimming for three to four weeks. The recovery of clear vision often takes several months. Glasses or contact lenses may be needed to achieve functional vision. Additionally, refractive procedures such as LASIK may be performed once the corneal transplant has healed.
For certain ocular conditions that result in permanent corneal edema (swelling), newer tissue sparing transplant methods (such as DSEK: Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty) enable patients to achieve a more rapid visual recovery. Because the vast majority of the patient’s cornea is left intact, the eye is stronger and more resistant to injury than with traditional corneal transplants, and most suture-related complications can be avoided