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Cornea Transplant

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How Full Thickness Cornea Transplants Are Performed

The surgery can be done using local anesthesia. This uses medication to numb the eye and stop it from moving. The patient stays awake although sedated during the surgery.

Another option is general anesthesia. In this case, the patient is put to sleep for the procedure.

The surgeon uses a special cutting instrument called a trephine, which works like a cookie cutter. It removes a round section of damaged cornea from the front of your eye.

The same process is used to remove a similar-sized circle of cornea from the donor's eye. The surgeon places the new section of cornea onto your eye. Then he or she sews it into place using ultra-thin stitches with the help of a microscope.

Success Rates of Cornea Transplants

Experts know more about the long-term success rates of penetrating cornea transplants, which use all the layers of the cornea.

Success rates are also affected by the problem that needed to be fixed with the transplant. For example, research has found that the new cornea lasts for at least 10 years in:

  • 89% of people with keratoconus
  • 73% of people with Fuchs' dystrophy
  • 60% to 70% of people with corneal scarring

Recovery From a Cornea Transplant

The risks of complications vary depending on how many layers of the cornea are transplanted. Your body is less likely to reject the transplant if only the outer layers are used, compared to using all the layers or the deepest layer. Rejection happens in about 20% of cases overall.

Other problems can include:

  • Bleeding (rare)
  • Scarring
  • Cataract formation, retinal detachment, and damage to other parts of the eye
  • Leakage of fluid from the transplant incision
  • Infection (rare)
  • Vision problems. Full thickness transplants can heal with large amounts of astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness, requiring thick lenses on eyeglasses or contact lenses.

In addition, some ailments that damage people's original cornea can also harm the new cornea. For example, there is the possibility of recurrence of herpes simplex infection in the transplant.

The cornea tends to heal slowly. To help protect your eye in the days after the surgery, your doctor may ask you to wear a protective shield over it.

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