Corneal transplantation is also known as Keratoplasty. Here the word Kerato stands for the Cornea. Cornea is that part of the eye on which we wear our contact lenses.
This is the only transplantation done in the eyes. No other part of the eye can be replaced by another natural tissue that has been donated by someone else. Thus, when we talk about eye transplant we are actually talking about corneal transplants.
Individuals can choose to donate their eyes after they leave this world. A team from an eye bank will then come to that person's home and collect the corneas of both eyes. Thus, corneal transplants can only occur if people choose to donate their eyes ( corneas) after they pass away.
It thus becomes very important to increase awareness about eye donation and even though extensive research is underway to create artificial corneas, these artificial corneas have still not reached clinical practice.
Whenever the cornea is damaged and cannot be repaired on its own, a transplant is needed. Following are the different conditions where a transplant may be needed. Of course, we have mentioned here only the broad conditions, for eg every corneal opacity does not need a corneal transplant.
Corneal transplant surgery has to be planned because the donor tissue has to be arranged. There are many Eye Banks that will store corneas and it's from here that the corneas are obtained.
To put it simply around the area of the old cornea is removed using certain special instruments. A donor cornea of the same size is placed on the eyes and sutured into position. 16 sutures are taken to fix the new cornea to the eye. The surgery can be done in local or general anesthesia and takes about an hour under routine circumstances.
Yes, a corneal transplant can be combined with other eye surgeries depending on the eye condition. Some common surgeries that are combined with a corneal transplant are cataract and glaucoma surgeries.
A corneal transplant is one of the most successful transplant procedures in the human body. This is because the cornea has lesser chances of rejection since blood – often the cause of organ rejection after transplant – is not present.
However, the transplant may fail. This would mean that the transplanted cornea becomes opaque. It is also known as “Graft Rejection”. In other words, the body rejects the new cornea considering it as a foreign object. If your eye doctor is not able to treat this graft rejection with eye drops then a second or third transplant may be needed.
Usually, eye drops are prescribed for many months. The patient has to have a regular follow-up with their surgeon. As mentioned earlier there are always chances of graft rejection and have to be watched out for.
Sometimes the eye pressure may also increase and your eye doctor will even look for this and treat the high pressures.