What is the cornea?
The cornea is the transparent membrane at the front of the eye. It lets the light inside the eye, allowing us to see clearly. The cornea may have opacification, deformation (e.g., keratoconus) or scarring as a result of injury, surgery, disease or hereditary disease (corneal dystrophies).
What is a corneal transplant?
When a cornea is opacified, it needs to be replaced partially or completely – this procedure is called a corneal transplant.
How are corneal transplants performed?
In a routine case of corneal transplant, the transplanted tissue came from a deceased human donor that is then processed by an eye bank. The transplant may involve the entire thickness (grafting or transfixing keratoplasty) or only certain layers of the cornea (anterior or posterior lamellar grafting or keratoplasty) depending on the extend of your corneal disease.
What to expect before the surgery?
Your ophthalmologist will assess the level of corneal damage and determine the corneal transplant technique best suited for your eye.
What to expect during or after the surgery?
The surgery is done as an outpatient day surgery (you are not hospitalized) and lasts about an hour. It is done under regional anesthesia (The eye is completely anaesthetized) with a slight sedation if necessary. An eyelid speculum is used to keep the eyelids open and prevent the eye from blinking during the procedure. Initially, the vision will be blurred after the procedure but it improves during the first weeks/month. Regaining good vision after a corneal transplant can take up to a year after surgery. Your ophthalmologist will see you the day after surgery and then after 1 week. You will have to take healing drops for about 1 year after surgery. You will need to update your glasses prescription after surgery – consult your ophthalmologist to find out when it is best to update the prescription. After surgery, you may have to undergo other procedures in the clinic. As with all transplants, there may be rejection of the graft. The main signs of rejection are redness of the eye or blurred vision. If this happens, it is important to go back to your ophthalmologist even if several years have passed since the operation.
What are the risks?
Complications after cataract surgery are rare and most of them can be treated successfully:
⦁ Vision loss
⦁ High pressure in the eye
⦁ Corneal graft rejection
⦁ Dry eyes
⦁ Drooping eyelid