Cornea problems affect many people. Injuries and illness can lead to damage and the risk of blindness. The solution to these issues is a corneal transplant. You should know about your options for this type of surgery.
Depending on varying factors, there are different corneal transplant surgeries you can undergo. They include the following:
• Full thickness corneal transplant: This type of surgery involves replacing the entire cornea. It’s necessary if the front and inner layers of the cornea have suffered damage. The penetrating keratoplasty, or PK transplant as it’s also known, involves removing the damaged cornea and attaching a donor cornea in its place. This surgery requires a longer recovery period than its counterparts. It can also take up to a year or even longer to get your vision back. It’s also a riskier corneal surgery as your body could reject the new cornea.
• Partial thickness corneal transplant: If only the front and middle layers of the cornea are damaged, the partial thickness corneal transplant, also known as deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty, can be done. Recovery is shorter and there’s less likelihood of the new cornea being rejected.
• Endothelial keratoplasty: The endothelial keratoplasty corrects the problem of a cornea that has damage to the inner layer. Replacing it with healthy donor tissue is considered a partial transplant. Different procedures can be done to perform this surgery, but they both aim to remove the Descemet’s membrane, the cells in the damaged inner layer of the cornea.
Days or weeks before your surgery, you will meet with your ophthalmologist, who will explain the procedure and how it can help you. A date will be selected for your surgery that could change if a donor isn’t found by then. Tell the doctor all the medications you take and they’ll tell you whether you should keep taking them or temporarily stop before your surgery.
Usually, blood thinners should be stopped before corneal surgery. See your primary care doctor to get an exam and tests before your surgery to ensure that you’re healthy enough for it.
Someone should drive you home after your transplant. Make arrangements ahead of time.
Corneal transplants are done on an outpatient basis. You should know what to expect just before the surgery:
• You are given eyedrops and possibly other medications to relax.
• Your surgeon will use general or local anesthesia to prevent pain. You will have a device placed on the eye to keep it open and won’t see much due to the anesthesia.
• You’ll get the donor cornea transplanted. The doctor will determine the right method for stitching it in place.
• You may have other eye issues corrected as well, such as cataracts.
• After the surgery, your eye has a shield taped over it. You are monitored during your recovery from the anesthesia and can go home when you’re well enough.
• Your doctor will give you instructions for aftercare at home.
You should return to the ophthalmologist’s office the day after your surgery so the doctor can check your eyes. Your stitches may or may not be removed depending on how fast you heal, the type of stitches used and your eye health. You will have to do the following as part of your aftercare:
• Use eyedrops as prescribed
• Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye
• Take over-the-counter pain medication as directed by your doctor
• Wear glasses or an eye shield for protection
• Follow up with your ophthalmologist and learn when you can resume your regular daily routine
• You might have to lie on your back after the surgery to aid donor tissue staying in place
PK transplants are sometimes rejected as the immune system deems the transplant a foreign body. There are signs that this might be happening, which include the following:
• Eye pain
• Sensitivity to light
• Cloudy, hazy vision
• Eye redness
Always contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of those symptoms. They might be able to provide treatment that can stop the rejection.
If you’re in the Boca Raton, Florida area and need a corneal transplant, schedule a consultation with Dr. Archana Gupta at Advanced Eye Surgeons at your earliest convenience.