The cornea is a clear window located in the front of the eye covering the pupil and the iris. When viewing an image, the light passing through our eye is focused through the cornea which transmits it to the back of the eye, known as the retina. A normal cornea is composed of a clear smooth surface, allowing light to easily pass through to provide a sharp image. If the cornea is an irregular shape or has been damaged due to injury, infection, or disease, light passing through will become distorted or scattered, resulting in blurred vision.
When glasses or contact lenses are no longer an aide for visual correction, a corneal transplant may be necessary. Corneal transplants are one of the most common and successful surgeries in the United States. Our physicians at Hawaii Eye Institute will help determine if corneal transplant surgery is the right choice for you.
You may need a corneal transplant if any of the following conditions exist:
- Complications from LASIK or another eye surgery
- Scarring after injury or infection
- Hereditary corneal failure
Before the Surgery
Prior to the procedure, your name is placed on a waiting list at the local eye bank to receive a donor cornea. Unlike many transplant surgeries, waiting for a donor cornea is usually quick. Corneal tissue does not require a “match” between a donor and a recipient; as long as both individuals are in good health, chances for a successful transplant are great. Once the eye bank is ready to release a donor cornea, the human donor is tested for any viruses such as AIDS or hepatitis to ensure there is no transmission to the recipient. Sedatives and an anesthetic are given prior to the procedure while our friendly staff and physicians make you feel comfortable in the surgical environment.
During the Surgery
Depending on your age and medical condition, a local or general anesthetic will be used. Should the doctor choose to utilize a local anesthetic, you will remain awake during the procedure. However, you will not be able to see the surgery as it is taking place, and will not have to be concerned with keeping your eyes opened. During the procedure, your physician will use a high powered microscope while gently opening your eyes to examine and measure the cornea for appropriate placement. The diseased cornea is carefully removed from the eye and the donor cornea is placed into position. Thin nylon stitches will hold the cornea in place during the healing process and a shield will be worn over your eye for protection. Your stitches may be viewable to others; however, they should not be painful or affect your vision.
After the Surgery
In most cases, corneal transplants are an outpatient procedure. Plan to have someone drive you home as returning to normal activities such as driving and working might take a few days. Be sure to follow up with your physician at your scheduled post-surgery appointment so that we can closely monitor your eye’s health and healing. It takes approximately 6 to 12 months for the eye to fully heal and vision to be restored. Your stitches will be removed once your physician has determined that the corneal tissue is intact.
While your eye is healing, be sure to:
- Frequently use your prescribed eye drops
- Use over-the-counter pain medication if you are experiencing any pain
- Follow-up with your doctor for when you are able to return to normal activities
- Wear your eye shield and/or glasses
- Not rub or irritate your eyes
Call Hawaii Eye Institute today to schedule a consultation with one of our physicians!