The cornea, which is clear and dome-shaped, is the outermost layer of the eye. Durable and strong, it has two main functions. First, it helps protect the eye from dust, germs and other harmful items. It also acts like a lens. As such, it controls and focuses the light that reaches the eye. About 65 to 75 percent of the eye’s focusing power comes from the cornea.
A cornea transplant, therefore, is the replacement of part or all of the patient’s cornea with a new cornea from a donor. Most such transplants are extremely successful.
Why is It Done?
A cornea transplant, or keratoplasty, is typically done because the patient’s cornea has been damaged somehow. Replacing the defective cornea will restore the patient’s vision and may also relieve the pain associated with some eye diseases. Reasons for getting a cornea transplant can include the following:
• Keratoconus is a degenerative disease in which the cornea becomes malformed and thin
• Eye surgery can sometimes result in complications that damage the cornea
• An infection or injury can scar the cornea
• Infections of the cornea can also cause it to develop ulcers
• Some congenital conditions, like Fuchs’ dystrophy, affect the cornea
What Does the Procedure Involve?
There are two types of cornea transplants. In the penetrating or full-thickness transplant, the surgeon replaces all five layers of the cornea; in the lamellar cornea transplant, the surgeon replaces only some of the layers. There are several different surgical techniques used to perform a lamellar transplant, and their usage depends on which layers are being transplanted.
During the surgery, the doctor will use a special instrument to remove a round section of the defective cornea from the patient’s eye. They also collect a cornea of about the same size from the donor’s eye. After placing the donated cornea in the patient’s eye, the surgeon stitches it into place with an ultra-fine thread.
What is the Recovery Like?
After the surgery, the patient will be given certain medications to promote healing. The patient will also have to wear an eye patch to protect the eye as it heals. For the first year after surgery, they should visit the eye doctor frequently so he can determine the patient’s progress and check for complications.
Learn More About a Cornea Transplant
To get all the information about cornea transplant surgery, make an appointment at Live Oak Ophthalmology in Wilmington. We will be happy to evaluate the condition of your eyes and help you determine if this surgery is right for you. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.