A corneal transplant involves replacing a diseased, swollen, or scarred cornea with a transplanted one from a donor. When a patient’s cornea becomes cloudy, light cannot penetrate the eye to reach the retina and often poor vision or blindness results with no improvement from glasses or contact lenses.
Corneal transplants are very common in the United States; about 40,000 are performed each year. The chances of success of this operation are very high because of technological advances over the past 30 years. Corneal transplantation has restored sight to many, who a generation ago would have been blinded permanently by corneal injury, infection, or inherited corneal disease or degeneration.
There are different types of corneal transplant surgery including full thickness (PKP) and partial thickness (DSAEK and DMEK). The type of transplant a patient requires often depends on the type of underlying disease that the patient suffers from.
In full thickness corneal transplant surgery, the central portion of the cloudy cornea is removed and replaced it with a clear cornea obtained from an eye bank that processes donor tissue. This procedure is called a penetrating keratoplasty (PKP). A trephine, an instrument like a cookie cutter, is used to remove the cloudy cornea. The new cornea is then sutured into place with fine sutures. The sutures remain for months to years as the eye heals. Patients will be monitored carefully after surgery and ultimately will require new glasses or contact lenses to optimize vision.
In partial thickness corneal transplantation, only a small piece of the cornea is removed and replaced. This is typical in patients that have a swollen cornea from a failed internal pump cells called endothelial cells. These patients usually can have vision restored from procedures called Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK) and Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) which are partial thickness procedures.
All corneal transplants at Pacific Northwest Eye are performed by our fellowship-trained cornea surgeons who have extensive experience in managing complex corneal problems.
Some Information above Courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)