What is corneal transplant surgery?

Corneal transplant surgery takes place when the eye’s cornea is damaged or diseased. It is removed, and a donor cornea is surgically implanted in its place. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “A healthy, clear cornea is necessary for good vision. If your cornea is injured or affected by disease, it may become swollen or scarred, and its smoothness and clarity may be lost. Scars, swelling or an irregular shape can cause the cornea to scatter or distort light, resulting in glare or blurry vision”. Corneal implants reverse this damage and allow the recipient to see clearly again in cases where glasses or contact lenses simply are not enough.

Corneal transplant cost

Corneal transplant surgery can be costly for those who do not have insurance. Depending upon the type of corneal transplant (either full corneal transplant, endothelial keratoplasty, or lamellar corneal transplant, where only a portion of the cornea is replaced), and whether or not the surgery is performed as an inpatient procedure or an outpatient procedure, the procedure can cost anywhere from $13,000 to $27,000.

Corneal transplant recovery

Corneal transplant surgeryAfter surgery, an eye patch will cover the eye for several days to give the eye a chance to heal. You can also expect to use prescription eye drops and have regular, frequent appointments with your eye care professional to check on the eye’s progress. According to The National Keratoconus Foundation, “After the patch is removed, it is important to protect the eye from accidental bumps or pokes. Typically, for several months after surgery, patients wear glasses during the day and a metal or plastic shield at night to protect the eye from trauma while sleeping. Since the new cornea is delicately sutured in place, a direct blow to the eye must be avoided”.

The cornea heals slowly, so sutures are often left in for at least 3 months, sometimes permanently. Vision improves slowly, sometimes taking up to a year to fully develop. It is important to monitor the eye carefully and alert your eye care professional immediately if you suspect that the eye is not healing correctly.

Corneal Transplant Rejection

Rejection of the corneal transplant is the most serious complication associated with the surgery, according to All About Vision. However, if it is detected early enough it can be reversed 9 out of 10 times. If you experience redness, pain, sensitivity, or a decrease in vision after your corneal transplant surgery, contact your eye care professional immediately to determine if a rejection is taking place. Rejections can happen even several years after surgery takes place, so it is important to be mindful of the transplant even after a great deal of time has passed. When properly addressed, rejections can be taken care of with medication.

If you think that you may be a candidate for a corneal transplant surgery, contact your eye care professional today to make an appointment and discuss whether or not this surgery is an option for you.