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Overview of Corneal Transplant

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/22/2010

Corneal transplant or corneal graft or keratoplasty is recommended when corneal dystrophy, which is a condition of damaged cornea, occurs. You might get prepared to undergo corneal transplant by learning corneal transplant procedure in this article.

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    What is Corneal Transplant?

    Corneal transplant is a surgical procedure in which a damaged cornea is removed and replaced with a healthy cornea from the eye of a deceased donor. A patient must have corneal transplant procedure to prevent corneal dystrophy from getting worse. Corneal dystrophy refers to a condition in which one or more parts of the cornea suffer the loss of normal clearness due to an accumulation of cloudy material.

    Corneal dystrophy distorts your cornea so that neither spectacles nor contact lenses can improve your vision. In addition, medical treatment cannot help alleviate any pain corneal dystrophy has caused. If this occurs, the only way you can do is to undergo corneal transplant to save your vision.

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    More Information on Corneal Transplant

    A corneal transplant procedure will enable you to have a better vision, allay pain, and make damaged cornea look better. A corneal transplant is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. Your ophthalmologist will recommend that you undergo corneal transplant procedure if your cornea is severely damaged.

    Signs and conditions that need treatment for a corneal transplant may include clouding of the cornea, thinning of the cornea, corneal ulcers, swelling of the cornea, cornea scarring, and complications of earlier eye surgery.

    The donor is a person who has permitted to give his or her cornea to be used for medical purposes after his or her death. The donor family also plays a role in giving consent to this intention. The ophthalmologist will examine the donor cornea to confirm this cornea is free of infection. Once the ophthalmologist finds and determines what size donor cornea you need, he or she will recommend corneal transplant.

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    How to Perform Corneal Transplant

    Before corneal transplant procedure is performed, local anesthetic will make your eye numb. It will allow you to keep awake during the eye surgery. The surgeon then removes a circular piece of the damaged cornea, placing the donor cornea in the opening. The new part of cornea is stitched into place with a fine thread. The stitches seem like a unique star pattern surrounding the outer part of the new cornea. The surgery might take an hour to have a successful corneal transplant, depending on complication rates.

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    Complications of Corneal Transplant

    Even though corneal transplant procedure has a very low rate of rejection, you may have some complications after having corneal transplant including glaucoma (pressure within the eyeball), cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens), inflammation of the cornea, rejection of the donor cornea, troubles with the stitches in the cornea after surgery, and eye infection.

    Keep in mind signs and symptoms of cornea rejection may include light sensitivity, persistent discomfort, redness, and change in vision. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult your ophthalmologist before you determine to have corneal transplant.

    However, researches explain that the success rate of corneal transplant can be contributed by matching the blood type of the donor with that of your blood type.

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    Results of Corneal Transplant

    Your vision may recover after your corneal transplant. The risk of complications might take place for years depending on your health conditions. However, medications can manage cornea rejection. The ophthalmologist will review your cornea, adjusting it to improve your eyesight within a few weeks to a few months after surgery.

    The ophthalmologist will suggest that you wear either glasses or contact lenses to correct refractive errors like hyperopia (farsightedness) and myopia (nearsightedness). Laser eye surgery will be recommended if you need to have it.

    The ophthalmologist will have to remove stitches that make your vision blurry. Stitches with star-like pattern might lead to bump and dips in the new cornea. The ophthalmologist can also adjust and correct this problem by tightening other stitches in addition to removing them.

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    National Eye Institute: Facts About the Cornea and Corneal Disease -

    RNIB: Supporting Blind and Partially Sighted People: Corneal Transplantation - Cornea Transplant -

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