Corneal Transplant or Corneal Graft

What is a cornea?

The cornea is the transport window at the front of the eye and it can become scarred by injury or go cloudy due to disease when the rest of the eye remains quite normal.

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is carried out to replace the damaged cornea with a clear cornea. The clear donor cornea has to be taken from a deceased person. A corneal transplant is also known as a corneal graft or keratoplasty.

Who needs a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is done to:

  1. Seal a hole in the cornea
  2. Relieve pain from a problem within the cornea
  3. Remove infection in the cornea
  4. Improve vision

What are the risks of surgery?

No surgery is free of complications. Fortunately, complications are rare. The most common possible problems are infection and graft rejection. These complications would require extra treatment if they occurred and may even lead to the need for another operation. In someone who has had a corneal graft operation, if there is a rapid change in their vision, the eye feels as if there is something in it or becomes sticky, they must seek immediate help.

What type of anaesthetic is used?

The corneal graft operation can be carried out under local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic. The operation takes a little bit more than an hour to complete. Depending on the type of surgery, you may not even need to stay in hospital.

How long is the recovery period?

You should notice an improvement in your vision within days of the operation but it is important to understand that the vision continues to gradually improve over many months. Your doctors may want to take out loose or tight stitches over the months. The best vision (with new glasses or contact lenses) is not usually achieved for up to a year (and occasionally longer).

What can I expect after the surgery?

After the operation you need to wear your old glasses or an eye shield to protect the eye. You may feel that there is ‘something in the eye’ but it should not be painful. It may water a lot. We use many (about 16) very fine stitches for some of these types of operation.

What are the do’s and don’ts after surgery?

You need to avoid situations where the eye may be bumped, and also avoid heavy lifting. You will be asked to put drops in for many months (to prevent infection and rejection of the graft). You need to avoid swimming for at least a month and you may wish to take up to a month off work.

Types of corneal transplants or corneal grafts:

  • DSAEK – Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty
  • DLK – Deep Lamellar Keratoplasty
  • PK – Penetrating Keratoplasty

More information on care after the operation.

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