A cornea transplant is a surgical procedure, during the procedure the patient’s cornea is detached and replaced with a donor cornea from a cadaver. The cadaver cornea is usually obtained direct from an organ and tissue bank. Cornea transplant is probably the most common transplant carried out and certainly the oldest transplant, going back to the early 1900s. The procedure is recommended when the cornea is severely damaged or inflamed to the point where the issues cannot be resolved.
The cornea is the outermost component of the eye, in a cornea transplant a small circular “button” is removed from the patient and replaced by an equal button of cornea which was harvested from a cadaver. Once the replacement cornea is set, it is stitched into position. Depending on the extent of the injury or inflammation, a partial transplant may be warranted. A partial cornea transplant only involves the upper layers of the cornea. There is also a deep procedure where the lower layers of the cornea are removed and replaced, leaving the upper layers intact. The type of transplant done is all based on the condition and circumstances.
The operation is undertaken by an ophthalmologist, it is done either under general anesthesia or sedation and local anesthetic. The entire process is quite lengthy, not the actual transplant but the healing, it can often take as much as a year for complete healing. During the early stages of healing it is very important that the eye not be subjected to any trauma and as such the patient needs to wear eye protection and to take anti-rejection drugs. When the operation is first done the patient will suffer from blurry vision but this is resolved over as the healing progresses. As it may be difficult to fit contacts to a cornea transplant patient, it must be understood that the option is limited to wearing glasses after the transplant has been completed.
A cornea transplant can make a world of difference in the patient’s quality of life. Once the transplant candidate has been subjected to a thorough examination and told of the risks associated with the operation as well as what is expected in aftercare, the operation is logged. Once a donor cornea is available the operation takes place.