What is Corneal Transplant?

A transplant is the replacement of damaged or diseased tissues or organs with healthy tissues or organs. What people refer to as Eye transplant is actually a Cornea transplant; the entire eyeball cannot be replaced. In a Corneal transplant, the cloudy or warped Cornea is replaced with a healthy Cornea. If the new Cornea heals without problem there will be tremendous improvement in vision.

The healthy corneal tissue used for transplantation is supplied by an Eye Bank. Eye Banks work round the clock to collect, evaluate, and store donated corneas. The Corneas are collected from human donors within hours of death. Stringent tests are done to ensure safety of the person receiving the cornea. The Eye Bank verifies the donor's medical history and cause of death, and performs blood tests to ensure the deceased person did not have any contagious disease such as AIDS or hepatitis.

Cornea was one of the first parts of the body to be transplanted, and is among the most common and most successful of all organ transplants.


How Does The Eye Work?

Anything you see is an image that enters your eye in the form of light. The different parts of your eye collect this light and send a message to your brain, enabling you to see. For perfect vision all the parts of your eye need to work properly.

  • The cornea is the clear, outer layer of the eye.
  • The pupil is an opening that lets light enter the eye.
  • The iris, the colored part of the eye, makes the pupil larger or smaller.
  • The lens bends to focus light onto the retina.
  • The retina receives light that has been focused by the cornea and lens.
  • A clear (vitreous) gel fills the inside of the eye, giving it shape.

The cornea is clear to let light into the eye, and curved to focus the light rays.


Some facts you may like to know

  • It is not necessary to find a cornea with a matching tissue or blood type
  • The race, gender, eye color of the donor is not important
  • A Cornea transplant won't change your natural eye color
  • The Cornea heals slowly and improvement in vision may take a year or more
  • It is difficult to shape the new Cornea perfectly. So, astigmatism (a condition where the Cornea has an irregular shape, making images seem blurred or distorted) is common after a cornea transplant. However, this can be corrected.

Preparing for a transplant

If you are advised to undergo a cornea transplant your ophthalmologist will tell you what is required. The transplant will be scheduled according to the condition of your eye and the availability of a donor Cornea. Occasionally a shortage of donor corneas may delay surgery. If both your eyes need new corneas, the second transplant will not be performed until the first eye has stabilized, which may take up to a year.

Usually local anesthesia is used for surgery, so you will be awake but feel no pain. The nerves in your eye will be numb so you cannot see or move your eye. Sometimes the doctor may use general anesthesia.


The transplant procedure

For the transplant procedure doctors use an operating microscope and very delicate instruments. Once the old Cornea is removed the new Cornea is stitched into place. The sutures are not visible and are not painful.

If necessary other procedures may be performed at the same time as your transplant. For example a cataract may be removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL may be replaced or removed, the iris may be repaired, and the additional procedure required will be explained to you by your ophthalmologist.

Nowadays only the diseased portion of the cornea can be replaced known as lamellar corneal transplant. There are conditions of the Cornea such as Scars, dystrophies, degenerations, keratoconus where the pathology is limited to the anterior portion of the cornea and only that portion is replaced known as anterior lamellar keratoplasty. There are conditions such as Endothelial dystrophy, aphakic and pseudophakic corneal edema where the corneal endothelium is affected and only that is replaced known as endothelial keratoplasty. However these are not an option for every patient who needs a cornea transplant and you need to discuss the appropriate option with your ophthalmologist.


Rejection of a Transplant - the Danger Signals!

Oral steroids may cause acidity, mild stomach pain, increase in weight, acne or pimples. In rare cases, they can induce diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), nervousness and depression. Women are advised to avoid pregnancy (contraceptive devices can be used) while on treatment with oral steroids or immunosuppressive drugs.

Some immunosuppressive drugs interfere with the basic metabolic process of the body; many of them cause bone marrow depression, thereby reducing blood count. Patients are advised periodic blood tests while taking the treatment, to monitor the side effects of the drugs.


Important Tips on Care After Surgery

  • Please take the medicines as advised by the doctor; do not start or stop the medication on your own. If you are on oral steroid therapy and have to undergo any surgery, please inform your doctor. If you have taken oral steroids for more than two weeks, do not stop suddenly, as this could have serious problems.
  • Keep your medication where you can see it easily.
  • Schedule your medications around your daily routine, like when you wake uo in the morning, at meal times or at bedtime.
  • If you forget to use your eye drops, use them as soon as you remember, instead of waiting till the next scheduled time. Then get back on schedule for the next dose.
  • Watch out for side effects like changes in vision. Inform your doctor immediately about them or on your next appointment. Schedule your check-ups regularly.
  • When consulting doctors for other problems, tell them about the medicines that you are using. Eye medications can affect other parts of the body too.

About Shiv Jyoti

In Ahmedabad, Shiv Jyoti Eye Hospital is a recognized name in patient care. It was incepted in the year 1996. They are one of the well-known Eye Hospitals in Bapunagar. Backed with a vision to offer the best in patient care and equipped with technologically advanced healthcare facilities, they are one of the upcoming names in the healthcare industry. Located in, this hospital is easily accessible by various means of transport.

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