A cornea transplant also referred to as a corneal graft is an operation to remove all or part of a damaged cornea and replace it with healthy donor tissue. It can be used to improve sight, relieve pain and treat severe infection or damage.
How Is A Transplant Carried Out?
A cornea transplant can be carried out under a general anesthetic or local anesthetic. The type of cornea transplant you will have depends on which part of the cornea is damaged or how much of the cornea needs replacing.
Full-thickness transplants- A full-thickness transplant is called a penetrating keratoplasty (PK). During this procedure, a circular piece of the damaged cornea from the center of your eye is removed and replaced with the donated cornea. The new cornea is held in place by tiny stitches.
Partial-thickness transplants- Recently, techniques have been developed that allow only parts of the cornea to be transplanted. There are several different techniques your surgeon may use, depending on which layers of the cornea are transplanted.
The main techniques for transplanting the back parts of the cornea include:
- Descemet's stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) – replacing the inner lining of the cornea together with about 20% of the corneal supporting tissue (corneal stroma)
- Descemet's membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK) – replacing only the inner layer of cells of the cornea.
These techniques allow faster visual recovery and have a lower risk of complications. Stitches are not used during either of these procedures. Instead, the donated tissue is held in place using a temporary air bubble.
After your transplant
As you recover from surgery, these are things you need to do to care for your eye:
- Use the eye drops as prescribed
- Do not press on or rub your eye
- Wear eyeglasses or an eye shield to protect your eyes
- Depending on your transplant, you may have to lie on your back for a while after the surgery to help the new donor tissue stay in place.
Depending on the type of transplant you had and how your eye heals, it can take a year or more to fully recover from this surgery.