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Home » Your Eye Health » Vision Surgery » Corneal Transplant

Corneal Transplant

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 Patients,

We will be reopening our office Monday, May 18, 2020, and would like to bring you up to date with the many very important physical and procedural changes we have made to our office to assure the highest level of health and safety for our patients and staff during these very challenging times.

We have consulted with our county, state and federal officials, as well as the CDC and other healthcare professionals, to incorporate the recommended and required safety measures throughout our office.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused by rescheduling or postponing your earlier appointments.

To assure the health and safety of our staff and patients, as well as minimize any exposure, we have instituted the following changes. Please read through this entire document and print a copy so you are familiar with them.

1. Any and ALL appointments and visits will need to be scheduled. This includes the pickup of eyeglasses or trial contact lenses, frame selection, eyeglass repairs, and eyeglass adjustments.

2. Contact lenses will be shipped to all patients at no charge

3. To maintain social distancing and minimize any possible exposure, we have spread out our patient schedule.

4. 24-48 hours before your appointment, one of our staff will be calling to remind you of your appointment and discuss your ocular and medical history. In addition, they will ask you standard COVID19 screening questions and answer any questions regarding your upcoming exam. This will take 5 – 10 minutes but this initial call is important to allow you ample time in our office.

Please look for and answer this call.

5. In order to save time and keep everyone on schedule, any and all medications you are taking should be listed in as much detail as possible on a separate piece of paper, emailed to our secure site: DROXENBERG@COMCAST.NET, or entered on the patient registration form on our website: WWW.DROXENBERG.COM. This needs to be completed prior to your appointment and should include all systemic medications (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) and ocular medications (eye drops, glaucoma medicine, etc.).

6. On the day of your appointment please plan to arrive 15 minutes early and call us at (717) 394-3798 when you arrive. We will return your call when you will be allowed to enter. Entry will be through the front door only unless previously discussed with our staff. Only the person with the appointment will be allowed in the office with the exception of minor children who have the appointment. NOTE: Family members and/or friends will need to wait outside.

7. We will be taking your temperature in the vestibule and anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher or who is sick will be rescheduled. If you feel ill, please reschedule your appointment.

8. All staff will have their temperatures checked 2 times daily for your safety.

9. All staff will wear a facemask while in the office. In addition, all patients must wear a facemask while in the office as mandated by Governor Wolf for all PA businesses. If you do not wear a facemask, one will be provided to you.

10. There are hand sanitizing stations strategically placed throughout the office. Please use them.

11. All frames will be disinfected before and after being handled by patients and staff. Frames will not be returned to the frame display until they are appropriately disinfected.

12. All exam room equipment will be cleaned and disinfected before and after each use according to the CDC guidelines.

13. Cleaning and disinfection of our office have always been a priority and this will continue in earnest.

14. Preferred payment is by credit card or checks at the time of services but cash will be accepted.

15. We have installed a plexiglass barrier on our front desk to comply with the CDC and state guidance.

16. Reception area chairs have been separated to maintain social distancing.

17. Patients who are physically disabled will be allowed entry through the rear door, with prior approval, following a temperature check and COVID19 screening. All other patients must enter through the front door and screening vestibule.

18. Above all else, your safety and health are our top priorities. We take this responsibility very seriously and have implemented these changes in procedures to achieve this.

Dr. Oxenberg has been providing eye care to you and your family since 1990 and expects to continue for many years to come.

If you have any questions and /or concerns, please feel free to email our office at droxenberg@comcast.net or call (717) 394-3798.

We look forward to seeing you all again!

Sincerely,

Dr. Larry Oxenberg