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What You Should Know About Corneal Transplant Surgery

The two most important things to know about corneal transplants are that they are one of the most common transplant surgeries performed every year, and they have a high success rate. According to the National Keratoconus Foundation, about 50,000 corneal transplants are performed every year, and 95% of those transplants successfully restore vision

Board Certified Ophthalmologist Stephen Khachikian, MD, located in Rapid City, South Dakota, is an expert in performing corneal transplants. Below, Dr. Khachikian offers an overview of this life-changing procedure.

What is a cornea?

The cornea is the clear outer lens of the front of the eye. It has many layers and helps focus the light that enters your eye to see clearly. When your cornea gets damaged from injury or diseases such as Fuch’s dystrophy or keratoconus, it can cloud your vision and also may cause pain. 

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is a procedure that replaces your cornea with corneal tissue from an organ donor. This procedure can help restore vision, reduce pain and other issues related to a damaged cornea.

A cornea transplant is an option for those with damaged corneas that could not be repaired through other treatments such as laser treatment or medication, or less invasive treatments are not options because of other health considerations.

There are several types of corneal transplant procedures, depending on the type and degree of damage to your cornea. The two main types are the traditional penetrating keratoplasty (PK), which replaces the entire thickness of the cornea, and the endothelial keratoplasty (EK), which returns only the inner layer of the cornea.

Potential risks and complications of corneal transplants

As with most surgeries, there is a risk of bleeding and infection. The most severe complication is organ rejection. Organ rejection means that your body’s immune system fights this foreign tissue. However, Dr. Khachikian has extensive success with this procedure. He monitors you closely following the procedure to look for signs of organ rejection, which may be managed through eye drops and oral medication.

What should I expect after a corneal transplant procedure?

You’ll be given a sedative and an anesthetic, so you don’t feel pain during the procedure. You’ll go home the same day of the procedure after the anesthetic wears off, wearing an eyepatch to keep your eye safe and clean.

You’ll be given a regimen of drops and medicines to ward off infection and organ rejection and will need to return to your doctor for close monitoring. Tell the doctor immediately if you experience pain or bleeding.

Depending on the type of transplant surgery you had, it can take up to a year for your eye to heal fully. The majority of people experience good vision for many years after a corneal transplant. 

To find out if you’re a candidate for corneal transplant surgery, or have any questions about the procedure, book an appointment online or over the phone with Stephen Khachikian, MD, today.

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