A cornea transplant is a type of eye surgery done to replace cornea with tissue. Your cornea is the clear layer in the front of your eye and if it is damaged, a cornea transplant will need to be done. The procedure usually involves you being awake during it and the tissue typically comes from someone who has died and donated their organs. There are different types of cornea transplant procedures, which the most common being called a “penetrating keratoplasty.” This procedure involves the surgeon removing a small piece of your cornea and replacing it with the new cornea tissues.
Who Needs a Cornea Transplant?
The cornea transplant will be performed on anyone who has scarring of their cornea from eye injuries or severe infections of the eye, vision problems from thinning of the cornea which are usually from keratoconus, or vision loss from clouding of the cornea, such as from Fuchs’ dystrophy.
Risks of Cornea Transplants
As with most types of surgeries, there are some risks with cornea transplants though nothing too severe. The most common risk is when your body rejects the transplanted tissue. This is rare but does occur in some patients, though steroid eye drops usually fix this condition. Additional risks from the transplant are bleeding, eye infections, glaucoma, and a swelling of the front of the eye. There are also risks from using anesthesia including allergic reaction and breathing difficulties.
Preparing for the Cornea Transplant
Before your procedure, you should let your doctor know of any medical conditions you have as well as any medications you’re taking, including herbs and supplements, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. You may need to stop most medications at least 10 days before the surgery to prevent blood clots. Starting at midnight the night before your surgery, you will also need to stop eating and drinking though you may be allowed water or apple juice up to 2 hours before your scheduled surgery. Be prepared to have someone drive you home after your surgery, and don’t wear jewelry, cream or lotion on your face.
After the Cornea Transplant
A cornea transplant is considered an outpatient procedure and you will typically go home the same day. You will be directed to wear an eye patch for 1-4 days while your eye heals from the transplant. You will probably also be given eye drops that help prevent rejection and infection. Stitches from the transplant are removed at the follow-up visit, but in some cases remain for up to a year. Healing and recovery of your eyesight can also take up to a year, but most with the transplant have very successful outcomes. If you have other eye conditions, they may keep your eyesight from returning fully.