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Cornea Surgery — Which One is Right For You?

You might not have much reason to think about the health of your eyes — specifically, your corneas — very often, but some people certainly do. In the United States, over 47,000 people get cornea transplant surgery every year. Results also produce a high success rate over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic

Your cornea is one of the many parts of your eye that are crucial to helping you focus and see well. A damaged cornea could lead to permanent damage — maybe even blindness. That’s why you should see your eye doctor right away if you’re having issues with your sight.

Here at Black Hills Regional Eye Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, you can count on Stephen Khachikian, MD, a cornea surgery specialist. He and the rest of our team have the expertise to treat your condition with superior care. If you have impaired eyesight, we talk about options with you and offer the best solution for your successful outcome.

What is cornea surgery?

When you come in to see us for your eye exam, we offer a comprehensive look at what’s going on with your eyesight. The tests pick up issues that you may or may not know you’re having, although cornea problems often hinder your vision. 

If we see issues with your cornea, we might recommend cornea surgery. Although there are many types of cornea surgery, general cornea surgery involves replacing some or all of a cornea with one that’s been donated. 

Before your surgery, we want to make sure you feel relaxed and comfortable. We give you a sedative and also put local anesthetic in your eyes, so you won’t feel anything. 

In the most common cornea surgery, called penetrating keratoplasty, Dr. Khachikian cuts through your cornea to remove a small portion of tissue. He then places an instrument over your open eye and makes a circular cut to insert your new cornea. If you don’t have access to a  donated cornea, then we can perform keratoprosthesis surgery, where we fit you with a prosthetic cornea.

What are my options?

If you don’t need a full cornea transplant, other surgery options might include:

Descemet stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) 

We clean out your cornea membrane and replace it with donor material.

Limbal cell transplant

We place healthy stem cells into your cornea to help you grow new cells. 

Phototherapeutic keratectomy 

We only remove the outer layer of your cornea and laser the surface to make it smooth.

Superficial keratectomy

We remove your outer cornea and anterior stroma to reverse your blurry vision.

Pterygium removal 

We use a laser to relieve the thickness of your corneal coating.

Laceration repair

Depending on the nature of the cut in your cornea, we might irrigate the area, put a patch over it, use stitches, or recommend laser surgery.


If you have keratoconus, these implants can reshape your cornea.

Anterior lamellar keratoplasty (ALK)

We remove the front part of your diseased corneal layers without touching the back layers. We perform deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty (DALK) when we need to reach the deeper part of your stroma.

During your consultation, we sit down with you and explain every option thoroughly. Your diagnosis helps us determine the best treatment for you. Before you leave your appointment, you have a clear understanding of your recommended procedure with all of your questions answered.

With so many options for cornea surgery, we’re able to find the one that best fits your individual condition, and customize that procedure to your exact needs. That’s why it’s so important to choose a highly skilled ophthalmologist like Dr. Khachikian, who is adept at all types of cornea surgery. At Black Hills Regional Eye Institute, we’re professionals at taking care of your eyes, so know you’re in good hands.

Call our Rapid City, South Dakota, office at 605-203-4268 to request an appointment, call 605-203-4268 or book your visit online today. You can also send a message to Dr. Khachikian and the team here on our website.

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