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What Happens during a Corneal Transplant?

Corneal transplant is a surgical procedure where a damaged cornea is removed and replaced with a healthy cornea from a deceased donor. This helps patients see clearly, reduces eye pain and saves the eye in case of an eye trauma or ulcer that has damaged or is about to damage the cornea.

While corneal transplants are widely used and are highly successful, many people still fear undergoing the procedure because they are afraid of the possible risks and complications. Although risks will always be there, this surgery is relatively safe. You need to take the necessary precautions before, during and after the surgery to ensure safety.

Here are common steps undertaken during a corneal transplant that you need to be familiar with:

•    The donor cornea should undergo several tests such as for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C to ensure that it is suitable and healthy.

•    Prior to the corneal transplant, the recipient may need to undergo blood and other types of tests to make sure that he is healthy enough of for the procedure.

•    Normally, this surgery will be performed under general anesthesia. However, if the recipient is poor in health, local anesthesia may be used.

•    The entire corneal transplant will usually last for 30 minutes to an hour.

•    The eye surgeon will remove a circular part from the center of your cornea. This will be replaced with a similar sized circular area from the donor cornea.

•    The replacement will be stitched into place with sutures or very fine stitches.

•    The corneal transplant is usually performed with the help of a microscope. The procedures may vary depending on the type of transplant performed. In some cases, sutures may not be required.

•    In some cases, the transplant may be performed with other eye surgeries such as those for glaucoma and removal of cataracts.

•    The eye will be padded with a plastic protective shield. This can be removed 12 to 18 hours after the surgery. However, you may need to wear a plastic shield over the eye at night for four weeks after the surgery is performed

•    You can expect to feel some soreness and irritation in your eye immediately after the procedure. Pain is not usually felt.

•    You can also expect to have a blurred vision within a few weeks or months after the surgery. However, you may notice improvements in your vision even in the first few days or weeks following the surgery.

•    Use eye drops as may be prescribed by your eye doctor. The frequency will usually reduce over time. Make sure to follow your doctor’s orders strictly. The drops would usually include antibiotics to prevent infections and steroid preparations to reduce swelling and the risk of failure or rejection. The eye drops may be supplemented by steroid tablets and other immune system suppressing medications, if necessary.

•    Make time for your appointments with your doctor so he can closely monitor your reaction to the corneal transplant.

•    Avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting during the first few weeks after the surgery.

•    You can resume work after two to six weeks after the surgery, depending on the type of work you do. Get your doctor’s go signal before resuming work.

•    The sutures are usually removed one to two years following the surgery.

•    It is important to understand that a corneal transplant can rupture if you something poked in your eye.  Contact sports are usually not allowed because of this.

•    Make you sure you only consider a corneal transplant after all other options have been exhausted. This is because 50% of corneal transplants will fail within 15 years meaning that you will require a second and possibly a third corneal transplant in your lifetime.

•    Most corneal transplants will require either glasses or contact lenses to see properly.

•    At The Eye Practice even though we do not do corneal transplants as this is reserved for experienced corneal surgeons, we have seen many hundreds of patients before and after corneal transplant surgery.  We are experts in prescribing correction before and after corneal transplants and can advise you on when it is in your best interest to consider one.  Book an appointment ONLINE by CLICKING HERE (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/bookeyeexam) or call us on (02) 9290 1899.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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