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 transplantation we are actually talking about corneal transplants.
Where does one get the “Donor Cornea” from ?
Individuals can choose to donate their eyes after they leave this world. A team from an eyebank will then come to that persons home and collect the corneas of both eyes. Thus corneal transplantation 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 artifical corneas have still not reached clinic practice.
When is a corneal transplantation needed ?
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.
- Central corneal opacities
- Corneal ulcer with or without perforation
- Severe corneal injury and loss of corneal tissue
How is the surgery performed ?
A corneal transplant surgery has to be planned because the donor tissue has to be arranged. There are many Eye Banks which will store corneas and its from here that the corneas are obtained.
To put it simply a round 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.
Can this surgery be combined with other surgeries ?
Yes a corneal transplant can be combined with other eye surgeries depending on the eye condition. Some common surgeries that are combined with corneal transplant are cataract and glaucoma surgeries.
What is the success rate of this surgery ?
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.
What is the post surgery care ?
Usually eye drops are prescribed for many months. The patient has to have a regular followup with their surgeon. As mentioned earlier there are always chances of graft rejection and has 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
The cost varies from hospital to hospital, depending on the expertise available and the locaton of the hosptial. But for the sake of this article one can safely say that it would cost anywhere between Rs 60000 to Rs 100000.
Individuals donate their eyes as a contribution and is done for free. For this reason the corneal graft is free. Some Eye Banks charge for their services of retriving and storing the cornea but the donor cornea per se is free.