Corneal transplantation which can also be referred to as keratoplasty is a surgical procedure which is done to replace the part of the cornea by making use of corneal tissue from a donor. The cornea is the transparent, dome-shaped surface of the eye, which is an important part of the eye focusing power.
Corneal transplantation has a lot of benefits which include and not limited to vision restoration, reduce pain and improve the appearance of a damaged or diseased cornea.
Majority of the corneal transplant procedures are successful. However, corneal transplantation has a low risk of complications, such as donor corneal rejection.
Why is it done?
Corneal transplantation is most commonly used to restore vision to a person whose cornea has been damaged. Corneal transplantation has also been found to alleviate pain or other signs and symptoms associated with the cornea.
Below are some of the conditions which can be cured by corneal transplantation:
- A cornea that bulges outward (keratoconus)
- Fuchs’ dystrophy
- Thinning of the cornea
- Cornea scarring, caused by infection or injury
- Clouding of the cornea
- Swelling of the cornea
- Corneal ulcers, including those caused by infection
- Complications caused by previous eye surgery
Who is an ideal candidate for cornea transplantation?
Corneal transplantation is performed to enhance corneal function and improve vision. If the pain is caused by a critically ill or damaged cornea, corneal transplantation may ease that symptom.
During the procedure
On the day of your procedure, you will get a sedative for relaxation and a local anesthetic that will help in numbing your eye. During the operation, you will not fall asleep, but you should not feel the pain.
During the most common type of cornea transplant (penetrating keratoplasty), your surgeon will make an incision through the entire thickness of the affected or diseased cornea, this is done to remove a small button-sized disk of corneal tissue. An instrument known as trephine which acts like a cookie cutter is used to make the exact circular cut.
The donor cornea, cut to fit, is inserted into the opening. The surgeon then uses a fine thread to stitch the new cornea into place. Another meeting should be scheduled with your eye doctor in order to remove the stitches.
In some cases, if people cannot get the corneal transplant from the donor cornea, doctors can insert artificial cornea (keratoproteza).
Recovery from cornea transplantation
The total recovery time of the cornea transplant may be up to one year or more. Soon after the procedure, your vision will be blurry for the first few months – and in some cases, it may be worse than before – while your eye gets used to its new cornea.
As the vision improves, you can gradually resume normal daily activities. During the first weeks, heavy exercises and lifting are forbidden. However, you should be able to return to work within a week following the surgery; this depends on the type of job you do and how quickly your vision improves.
Steroid eye drops can also be recommended for some months in order to help your body in coping with the new cornea graft, and also a number of other drugs so as to assist in controlling infections, discomfort and inflammation. You must always protect your eyes by wearing shields or glasses so that nothing enters your eyes.
In the event that stitches are used during the procedure, there is a need to schedule another meeting so that the stitches can be removed this often occurs 17 months after the surgery, depending on the health of your eyes and the rate of healing. Adjustment can also be done to the sutures surrounding the new corneal tissue to reduce the amount of astigmatism caused by the irregular eye surface.
As with any type of surgery, always follow and obey the instructions given to you by your ophthalmologist as this will help in reducing any complications that can follow cornea transplantation and accelerate healing.
Cost of corneal transplantation
The cost of cornea transplantation for advanced keratoconus in the United States is about $ 13,000 for an outpatient procedure and about $ 28,000 for hospital treatment for people without health insurance, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services).
Health tourists are people who visit another country outside their home nation for the purpose of a medical procedure. A large number of people travel because of a range of procedures which cornea transplantation is not an exception.
If you have decided to visit other countries for corneal transplantation, it is important to note that the cost differs and this depends on so many factors such as the country you have chosen and the experience of your eye surgeon.