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Home » Eye Care Services » Your Eye Health » Vision Surgery » Corneal Transplants

Corneal Transplants

The cornea refers to the clear, front surface of your eye. When a corneal transplant is done, officially termed keratoplasty (KP), the central part of the cornea is surgically removed and replaced with a “button” of clear and healthy corneal tissue donated from an eye bank.

According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 40,000 corneal transplants are performed annually in the United States. The overall success rate for keratoplasty is relatively high, yet up to 20% of patients may reject their donor corneas. Aggressive medical treatment with steroids is generally given in response to signs of rejection, and it is often effective at subduing the negative reaction and saving the cornea. At five to ten years after KP surgery, studies report an encouraging success rate of 95% to 99%.

Why are corneal transplants done?

Corneal transplants are typically done when the cornea becomes damaged or scarred in a way that uncorrectable vision problems occur. These types of vision conditions are not resolved by eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive laser surgery (such as LASIK). Disease or injury is the usual culprit for the vision loss.

Keratoconus is a common reason for needing a corneal transplant. In this degenerative condition, the cornea thins and bulges forward in an irregular cone shape. Rigid gas permeable (GP) contact lenses can treat mild cases by flattening the cornea, yet contacts are not effective when it comes to advanced stages of keratoconus. The National Keratoconus Foundation reports that 20% to 25% of people with keratoconus will require corneal transplant surgery to restore vision. Other corneal degenerative conditions will also result in a need for keratoplasty.

Corneal ectasia is a thinning and bulging of the cornea that sometimes occurs after LASIK or other refractive vision correction procedures. In the event that this happens, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision.

Corneal scarring, due to chemical burns, infections and other causes, is an additional reason that a corneal transplant may be indicated. Traumatic injuries to the eye are also commonly responsible.

Corneal Transplant Procedure

Keratoplasty is generally done on an outpatient basis, with no need for overnight hospitalization. Depending upon age, health condition and patient preference, local or general anesthesia is used.

Using a laser or a trephine, this is an instrument similar to a cookie cutter, the surgeon cuts and removes a round section of damaged corneal tissue and then replaces it with the clear donor tissue.

Extremely fine sutures are used to attach the donor button to the remaining cornea. The sutures remain in place for months (sometimes years) until the eye has recuperated, healed fully and is stable.

Recovery from a Corneal Transplant

The total healing time from keratoplasty may last up to a year or longer. At first, vision will be blurred and the site of the corneal transplant may be inflamed. In comparison to the rest of the cornea, the transplanted portion may be slightly thicker. For a few months, eye drops are applied to promote healing and encourage the body to accept the new corneal graft.

A shield or eyeglasses must be worn constantly after surgery in order to protect the healing eye from any bumps. As vision improves, patients may gradually return to normal daily activities.

What happens to vision post-keratoplasty?

Some patients report noticeable improvement as soon as the day after surgery. Yet a great deal of astigmatism is common after a corneal transplant. A patient’s prescription for vision correction tends to fluctuate for a few months after the surgery, and significant vision changes may continue for up to a year.

Hard, gas permeable contact lenses generally provide the sharpest vision after a corneal transplant. This is due to a residual irregularity of the corneal surface. Even with rigid contact lenses, eyeglasses with polycarbonate lenses must be worn in order to provide adequate protection for the eye.

Once the sutures are removed and healing is complete, a laser procedure such as LASIK may be possible and advised. Refractive laser surgery can reduce astigmatism and upgrade quality of vision, sometimes to the point that no eyeglasses or contact lenses are needed.

Dear Valued Patient:

We plan to re-open on May 20, 2020 to a limited schedule by appointment only—please set appointment online or call or email first.

We look forward to see you again soon!  We place the highest priority on the health and safety of our patients and our eye care staff.  Please read below:

Please read the following carefully to prepare for your visit to our office. We are implementing many new and more stringent procedures to ensure the health and safety of our patients and eye care personnel based on guidelines from the Alameda County Health Department and the CDC to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. During this time we are requiring the following for every patient and in-office encounter:

+We are starting with a limited schedule of appointments for better social distancing and for the safety of our patients (thank you in advance for your patience and understanding).

+All visits are by appointment only, there are no walk-in visits available

+All patients are required to wear their own personal mask before entering the office

+All patients are required to check in over the phone before their appointment

+Insurance coverage verifications must be taken care of before entering office for appointment

+Patient will wait outside in car until notified by text or email when they can come in for their appointment, upon entering, patient’s temperature will be taken and their hands sanitized with alcohol cleaner

+There will be no waiting area in the office, patient will be seen right away-please be on time

+Family or caregivers will need to wait outside in the car, as we will only allow patient to enter office.  Verbal consent for minors is acceptable. Updates will be given family or caregiver over the phone as needed.

+All glasses, contact lens orders will be by curb side pick up only—please call or email and we can help you set up a time to pick up your eye wear safely, maintaining social distancing

Our doctors and staff will increase our cleaning and sanitizing protocols:

+We have the latest HEPA air filters with UVC light disinfection to destroy bacteria and viruses

+Wearing protective face shields and surgical masks and medical grade disposable gloves

+All exam equipment and every surface is sanitized fully with hospital grade sanitizer after each patient encounter

+We have a new safe system of disinfection for all frames which have been touched or tried

+We screen all patients by phone to assure they have been healthy prior to their appointment

+All staff and doctors have passed additional training in more stringent sanitizing protocol

Thank you for your patience and compliance to these new and required guidelines. Our goal is to take care of your eye care needs while keeping you and your family healthy. We also want to help our community overcome this pandemic.

We will get through this together.

Please let us know if you have any questions or need more immediate assistance. 

You can set up a future appointment online at EyeCareDrLee.com or send an email to EyeCareDrLee@gmail.com or DrLeongOK@gmail.com  or call 510-668-0877

Please stay safe and stay healthy.

x

Stay up to date on our COVID-19 pandamic protocols Read Our Blog Post…

Our office continues to monitor the local health announcements on a daily basis. Optometry is an essential service and we will open to new health guidelines to help our patients while keeping everyone healthy. Please read our blog updates for our open date and new safety guidelines. Let us know if you have any questions or immediate eye care needs. Need contact lenses? Let us know, as we can send orders to you with free shipping.
We are responding faster to direct email:

eyecareDrLee@gmail.com

drLeongOK@gmail.com (for ortho-k)

Thank you, stay safe and stay healthy.

COVID-19 guidelines from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention-H.pdf