The cornea is a transparent part of the eye that covers the anterior chamber, iris and pupil. Its job is to focus the light entering the eye. If the cornea is damaged by disease or injury, it cannot function properly, and the patient’s vision is impaired. In a cornea transplant or keratoplasty, our surgeon replaces part or all of the cornea with a graft supplied by a donor.
Types of Cornea Transplants
The cornea consists of five layers: the epithelium, the Bowman’s layer, the stroma, the Descemet’s membrane and the endothelium. The epithelium is a layer of cells at the front of the cornea, while the endothelium is the deepest layer.
In a full-thickness cornea transplant or penetrating keratoplasty, our surgeon removes and replaces all five layers. In other types of transplants, only some of the layers are replaced. Of course, the right procedure for you will depend on the unique situation.
What Does a Full-Thickness Transplant Involve?
The eye is first numbed. This helps the patient to remain comfortable during the entire procedure. During the actual procedure, our surgeon will use a special instrument to create a circular section in the damaged cornea. He will also make a circle of the same size in the donor’s cornea. After placing the new cornea in the patient’s eye, the doctor will stitch it into place. Cornea transplants can last for a long time.
What is the Recovery Like?
The cornea is “immunologically privileged,” which means the immune system is not likely to attack the donated cornea. Rejection is far less common in cornea transplants than other types of transplants. Our doctor will make sure to take all of the necessary steps in order to help prevent rejection.
The cornea heals slowly, so the patient will have to use eyedrops for a set amount of time after the procedure. The patient’s vision will gradually improve as the cornea heals. Most patients report great results after about three months or so. They should visit our office for frequent follow-up exams, especially during the first year.
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