What is the cornea?
The cornea is the clear, domed-shaped structure over the color part of your eye. It helps focus light onto the retina, so that you can see clearly. If it becomes distorted in shape, scarred, or hazy from disease or injury, the light passing through it become distorted and your vision is reduced.
What is corneal transplant surgery?
A cornea transplant (keratoplasty) is an elegant, out-patient surgery that involves replacing a diseased or scarred cornea with a healthy donor tissue. The surgery is performed to restore vision, alleviate pain, and improve the overall appearance of the eye.
Why would I need a cornea transplant?
- Scaring or clouding from infection or trauma
- Pain or blistering on the cornea
- Fuch’s dystrophy
- Complications from LASEK/LASIK/ PRK
- Chemical burns on the cornea
- Progressive thinning of the cornea from autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Complications caused by previous eye surgeries
Types of Cornea Transplants
Dr. Huynh specializes in cornea transplants by applying the latest technology. Dr. Huynh is the only fellowship trained surgeon in Ventura County to offer DMEK, the thinnest possible and most advanced corneal transplant procedure available. Each transplant surgery is tailored to address the specific needs of the patient.
- DMEK (Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty)
DMEK is the latest evolution in the treatment of endothelial corneal disease. In the surgery, a paper-thin graft is transplanted with the aid of a gas bubble. DMEK provides superior vision result and quicker recovery time when compared to older techniques.
- DSAEK (Descemet’s Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty)
DSEK is a great option for the treatment of chronic endothelial corneal disease, especially patients with pseudophakic bullous keratopathy, glaucoma drainage implants, or artificial eye implants. In the surgery, the graft is transplanted with the aid of an air bubble.
- Convention “Full-Thickness” Transplants
Full-thickness transplant is the preferred choice for treatment of deep corneal scars or clouding from infection, trauma, or ectasia. The surgery involves using an ultra-sharp circular blade called a trephine to create a precise incision that is then matched by a correspondingly sized donor graft. The graft is sutured in placed and subsequently removed over several months as the eye heals.
Conditions that alter the normally smooth contour of the cornea or lead to clouding of the normally crystal clear cornea can lead to vision loss. When the vision loss is severe, a corneal transplant may become necessary. These conditions include, but are not limited to trauma, infections of the cornea, keratoconus, Fuch’s Dystrophy, and chemical injury.
Corneal transplant surgery involves removing the patient’s damaged cornea and replacing it with a clear donor cornea. The procedure takes approximately one hour to perform and is normally done on an outpatient basis (you can go home the same day). Corneal transplants are the most successful transplant in the body with success rates from 85-95%. Like most eye surgery, corneal transplants are performed under an operating microscope which magnifies the eye 30 to 60 times. Serious complications are uncommon but include graft rejection, infection, and bleeding in the eye.
While most patients are able to care for themselves within one to two days after surgery, it is important to refrain from heavy lifting or swimming for three to four weeks. The recovery of clear vision often takes several months. Glasses or contact lenses may be needed to achieve a functional vision. Additionally, refractive procedures such as LASIK may be performed once the corneal transplant has healed.
For certain ocular conditions that result in permanent corneal edema (swelling), newer tissue sparing transplant methods (such as DSEK: Descemet’s Stripping with Endothelial Keratoplasty) enables patients to achieve a more rapid visual recovery. Because the vast majority of the patient’s cornea is left intact, the eye is stronger and more resistant to injury than with traditional corneal transplants, and most suture-related complications can be avoided