Corneal transplant, also known as Keratoplasty, is an eye surgery that involves replacing the damaged or diseased cornea with a healthy donor cornea. The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye that helps to focus light and plays a vital role in vision. A corneal transplant is typically performed to restore vision in individuals with conditions such as corneal scarring, keratoconus, or corneal clouding.

To make sure they are fit for usage, donated corneas undergo a comprehensive inspection. A partial or full corneal replacement is one of many forms of corneal transplants. The surgeon is qualified to determine the type of transplant suitable for each patient’s requirement.

This blog post will explore the different types of corneal transplant procedures, the risks and benefits associated with the surgery, and what to expect during the recovery process. It will also provide information on how to prepare for the surgery, post-operative care, and tips for a successful recovery.

What Is A Cornea Transplant?

A corneal transplant is a medical procedure wherein the clear front layer of your eye, which is called the cornea, is replaced surgically. This is also known as corneal graft and keratoplasty.

An injury to the cornea typically results in eye pain and hazy or blurry vision. If your doctor thinks your cornea is damaged, you may be advised to opt for a cornea transplant.

During the surgery, your doctor will remove your damaged cornea and replace it with healthy donor tissue. This surgical procedure has enhanced the quality of life and vision of numerous patients all around the world.

What Is The Cornea And What Does It Do?

The cornea is the clear layer at the outer part of your eyeball through which we can observe the colored iris and the pupil – the black dot at the center of the iris. The cornea focuses light on the retina. The picture or image formed as a result of this is then received by your brain.

A damaged cornea tends to lose transparency, or it may change shape. This ends up preventing light from reaching the retina, resulting in a blurry or distorted image being conveyed to your brain.

When Is A Corneal Transplant Needed?

When your cornea becomes damaged or deceased and is rendered unable to focus light into your eye properly, a cornea transplant becomes necessary. You may experience blurred or distorted vision or light sensitivity.

Some common conditions that may require a cornea transplant include:

  • Keratoconus
  • Fuchs’ dystrophy
  • Scarring from injury or infection
  • Corneal edema

Are There Different Types of Cornea Transplant Surgeries?

There are three layers of the cornea tissue in your eye. Different types of cornea transplant procedures focus on a certain layer of tissue.

Penetrating keratoplasty

Full thickness cornea transplants is another name for penetrating keratoplasty. The current variation of the full thickness transplant has benefited thousands and thousands of patients across the globe since its inception a century or so ago. In this operation, your doctor removes the entire central portion of the damaged cornea using a tiny circular blade and replaces it with a donor corneal piece that is healthy and identical in shape.

Deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty

You may receive this surgery if the innermost layers of your cornea are healthy and the damage is in the middle layer and the outer one. A deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty dalk is another name for this procedure, where the middle and outer layers of your cornea are removed and replaced with healthy donor corneal tissue.

Endothelial keratoplasty

If the endothelial layer, the cornea’s innermost layer that lies on Descemet’s membrane, is damaged, surgery may be able to help. Endothelial keratoplasty procedures are categorized into:

  • Descemet’s stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK).
  • Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty DMEK.

What Happens During a Corneal Transplant?

Before a corneal transplant, eye drops and other medication may be administered. Local or general anesthesia is then used to either numb the surgery area or to put you in a completely unconscious state. The surgeon will choose the appropriate method for transplanting the healthy donor cornea, which depends on the type of requirement you have.

In some cases, the procedure would involve only the damaged inner layer being removed. Then, a thin layer of donor corneal tissue is implanted on the back surface. Then, an air bubble is inserted to assist with healing.

What Happens After a Cornea Transplant?

Recovery time typically depends on the type of procedure you go through. While glasses or contact lenses can normally be provided much faster, it takes about 18 months to see the full outcomes of a full-thickness transplant.

When only the exterior and middle layers are replaced, recovery is typically quicker. (DALK). Endothelial transplants (EK) typically require months or perhaps only weeks for recovery.

To increase your chances of a speedy recovery, it’s critical to take proper care of and protect your eye. This entails refraining from rubbing your eye and delaying engaging in risky activities like swimming and contact sports unless instructed otherwise.

How soon can I drive after a cornea transplant?

The day that you receive your corneal transplant, you cannot drive. Post the surgical procedure, you’ll need to be driven home. It is advised to have someone bring you back for a follow-up as well.

If your non-transplanted eye has good vision, you can drive the day after the surgery, preferably after twenty-four hours. However, especially if you underwent an endothelial transplant, your surgeon might advise waiting longer before getting behind the wheel.

When can I return to work after a cornea transplant?

Depending on your level of discomfort, the improvement in your vision, and the type of work you do, it may take a few days to several weeks to recuperate from a cornea transplant before you can go back to work. You might need more time off work to allow for full recuperation if your job requires heavy lifting or other physical tasks.

What are cornea transplant complications?

Rejection of the transplanted organ (the cornea) is a complication that is most alarming. Rejection occurs when your immune system mistakes the donated cornea for something foreign and attempts to attack it. Rejection risk varies depending on the surgical procedure performed and the health of your eye.

To lower the chance of rejection after a corneal transplant, you must use eye drops for at least a year after surgery. Get the best care now. Connect with your doctor to know the best way forward for your treatment.