In the United States, approximately 100,000 people are blind or have significantly decreased vision as a result of corneal disease, yet just over 40,000 corneal transplants are performed each year. Obviously, the waiting lists are often long for those awaiting the precious gift of sight, and there is always a need for more donor material.
The techniques used in corneal surgery have improved significantly over the last few years and the prognosis for a good surgical result in corneal transplantation is excellent in most cases.
Any condition that causes clouding or distortion of the cornea may result in poor vision and therefore, may require a transplant. Some conditions may result in advanced corneal swelling, which can cause significant discomfort and increase the risk of infection. In these conditions, a transplant is necessary to relieve the pain, reduce the risk of infection, and my restore vision.
There are several factors to consider in deciding who could benefit from this operation and at what time. Your corneal surgeon must consider the general health of the eye, the pressure inside the eye, the vision in each eye, and the specific condition that caused the decreased vision I the involved eye. Also, ay past eye surgery must be taken into account and any effect it might have on further surgery.
The central cloudy portion of the involved cornea is removed at the time of surgery and replaced with a clear cornea donated by a person who is recently deceased. The entire cornea is not usually transplanted, only the central portion.
The new cornea is placed in position with very fine suture material, which remains in place for several months. Often, your surgeon will modify the suture tension (in the office) during the first 6 months following surgery in order to minimize astigmatism in the transplant. Depending on the rate at which each person heals, the surgeon will decide the proper time for suture removal, if necessary (in most cases, it is not necessary to remove the sutures). Once the transplant has healed and stabilized, your surgeon will be able to determine the final visual potential for the eye. You should not expect to have clear vision immediately; the new cornea is normally swollen and takes several weeks to clear. A change in your glasses or the fitting of a contact lens may be needed to obtain the best sight possible.
No. We would be remiss and dishonest if we didn’t tell you that, as with other surgical procedures, failures do occur. Our overall success rate is quite high, but nothing is 100%.
The body can reject the transplanted tissue. In that event, your surgeon would treat the rejection by increasing your eye drop medication and possibly giving you additional medication by mouth. If the treatment of the rejection is unsuccessful, then the transplant could be repeated.
All that having been said, you should remember that corneal transplantation has one of the highest chances of success of any transplant you could have. The odds are considerably in favor of the patient.
With modern techniques, corneal transplant surgery can, in most instances, restore useful vision to eyes affected by corneal disease. While a guarantee of good vision cannot be made, the success rate is very high.
We do everything possible to restore your vision. Each patient is special and very important to us, and our goal is to achieve the highest level of success possible.
All surgical procedures and medical devices have risks. At Montgomery Eye Physicians, the risks and benefits of surgical procedures and medical devices are discussed in detail prior to scheduling surgery. A comprehensive discussion with your surgeon will enable you to make an informed decision. We screen all patients prior to surgery and perform extensive pre-surgical testing to eliminate from consideration those who may not be a suitable candidate for a procedure. It is the goal of our Practice to safely obtain the best results for those who are appropriate candidates for any given procedure.