Skip to main content
Menu
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 take our commitment to keeping our patients and team safe and healthy inthe midst of this COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. We want to share our plan to comply with social distancing guidelines for your upcoming appointment. Please carefully read the steps below and follow our direction when you arrive. Our team will all be wearing masks and we ask that you bring one with you to wear during your visit (for everyone’s safety, we are requiring staff and patients to wear masks).

We ask patients to complete necessary paperwork online if possible. Click here to access the forms. You may also choose to text a photo of your insurance card and photo ID to the clinic at 763-537-3213.

When you arrive for your appointment, enter the main doors and wait in the front alcove until a staff member greets you. Our front desk team will ask you general health questions to rule out the presence of COVID-19 symptoms.

We are asking that only the patient enter the building for the exam. (Exceptions: Children under 18 may be accompanied by one guardian, and adults with special needs may be accompanied by one caretaker.)

When you enter the building:

Staff will ask you to use hand sanitizer and then you will complete any necessary paperwork that you were not able to complete online, and we will make copies of your insurance card and photo ID if you did not text a picture of them to us.

Prior to seeing your doctor, a technician will escort you to a pre-testing room where you will be asked to wash your hands. We ask that you follow the CDC’s recommendation of washing your hands thoroughly, for a full 20seconds, with soap and water.

Rest assured that every surface and every piece of equipment you come into contact with has been sanitized prior to the arrival of each and every patient entering our practice, and it will be cleaned again as you exit each area.

The team will be frequently washing their hands between interactions as per our usual protocol, and you’ll also see hand sanitizer throughout the practice for your use, as well.

Optical – Shopping for Glasses, Adjustments and Repairs, and Glasses Pick-up

We are scheduling appointments for all optical needs. Please call the clinic at 763-537-3213 to schedule your appointment.

When you are shopping for glasses, one of our ABO certified opticians will ask you to be seated at a station where you will discuss your needs, likes and dislikes. To ensure social distancing, the optician will bring frames to you so you can try them on at the station. The optician will continue to bring frames to you until you find the perfect pair!

We sterilize every frame a patient touches in a UV Cleaning Unit after a shopping appointment so you can be assured any frame you try on has been sanitized prior to your visit.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us. We look forward to seeing you!

Thank you for your patience and cooperation,

Your Crystal Vision Clinic Eye Care Team

x

We sterilize every frame a patient touches in a UV Cleaning Unit after each shopping appointment so you can be assured any frame you try on has been sanitized prior to your visit.