Corneal Transplant: What is it?
The improvement in vision after a corneal transplant is different for each patient, but acheiving this best possible vision usually takes 6-12 months.  At each follow up exam your cornea surgeon may remove some of the stitches, which is a painless procedure performed at the office, to reduce astigmatism in the transplant.  Some patients achieve their best vision after a corneal transplant by wearing a hard contact lense over the transplanted cornea and causing it to fail.

As with all surgeries, there are risks and benefits of corneal transplantation that your ophthalmologist will discuss with you.  After surgery, using the recommended eye drops and keeping up with scheduled follow up exams will give your new cornea the best chance to improve your vision.
After a donor dies, the corneas are removed and taken to an eye bank, where they are examined to make sure that they are healthy.  The cornea is a unique tissue, because unlike other transplanted organs it does not have to be matched to the patient receiving the transplant.  The eye bank keeps the donor corneas until they are needed for corneal transplant surgery.

Corneal transplantation is an outpatient surgery performed in the operating room.  Most patients are given intravenous sedation and numbing medicine is placed around the eye so that the operation is painless.  The diseased cornea is removed using an instrument called a trephine that resembles a cookie cutter.  A healthy donor cornea is cut to fit, and then sewn onto place using microscopic sutures.  This procedure usually takes 60-90 minutes, followed by a short recovery period.

After surgery, your cornea surgeon will check your eye the next day.  He or she will prescribe antibiotic and steroid eye drops to be used while the transplant heals.  Normal activities can be resumed after corneal transplantation with some limitations.  Heavy lifting, bending, or straining should be avoided after surgery until approved by your surgeon.  Some form of eye protection should be worn at all times after surgery to protect the tiny stitches holding it in place.  It is normal to feel some stratchiness and eye irritation shortly after the surgery.
When a normally clear cornea becomes cloudy, it blocks light from reaching the retina.  If this happens to you, you and your ophthalmologist may decide that a corneal transplant is needed to improve your vision.  A corneal transplant is a surgery in which a diseased cornea is replaced with a clear, healthy, donor cornea.  Donor corneas come from people who have agreed to donate their eye tissue after they die to help others regain their sight.
corneal transplant
Above: A Typical Corneal Transplant. (Click For Bigger View)
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